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There is much debate going on about whether chocolate is really healthy for you or not (as we’ll explore in this article) but the fact is that if you eat specific types of chocolate and do so in moderation, there are definite health benefits to be had.

It all comes down to a powerful antioxidant known as a flavanoid. Flavanoids in the form of flavanol are found in the seeds of cacao plants, which are used to make chocolate. Flavanols are known for having health benefits such as protecting cells of the body from environmental damages, as well as being healthy for your heart by lowering blood pressure, decreasing the risk of a heart attack, and improving the flow of blood to the brain.

So, What’s the debate all about?

Photo of cacao beans:

Cacao beans

While flavanols are found in cacao and cacao is used to make chocolate, some chocolate contains almost 90% cacao, while other chocolate contain only about 30% or less. The higher the cacao content, the lower the sugar amount. For example, a chocolate bar with 80% cacao only has 20% sugar and fats, while a chocolate bar with only 30% cacao has 70% of its content being comprised of sugars and fats. This is why simply saying that chocolate is healthy for you is not completely accurate. It can be healthy, but it can also be quite the opposite.

What Types of Chocolate Should You Eat?

Sticking to chocolates with the highest pure cacao content will give you the most healthful flavanoids and the least amount of sugars and fats. Dark chocolate is by far the best chocolate for you, with bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolates also being known for having fairly high cacao content and thus the next best health benefits.

Remember though, that while the fat and sugar content of these darker, more heavily cacao-based chocolates is less than other types of chocolates, they still do have a ton of calories from fats and sugars and should still be eaten in moderation.

What Types of Chocolate Should You Avoid?

Unfortunately, the most popular type of chocolate, milk chocolate, tends to be the least healthy of all chocolates due to its high sugar and fat content. The benefits you may reap from any flavanoids found in milk chocolates will certainly be outweighed by the unhealthy aspects of consuming such large amounts of milk fats and sugars.

While there isn’t anything wrong with a piece of sugary chocolate now and again, it is inaccurate to think that milk chocolates and sugary candy bar chocolate is what health experts are talking about when they talk about chocolate being a healthy food.

Can any of this be Proven?

It has long been known that flavonoids and flavanol are antioxidants that are beneficial to your body. While flavanols are found in fruits and vegetables, studies have been conducted specifically with chocolate to test the impact of the flavanols found in this form of processed cacao.

In 2008, a study showed that people who ate a small piece of dark chocolate each day had healthier blood with less blood inflammation which leads to a decrease in their risk of a stroke or heart attack. Studies have also shown people have better memory retention shortly after drinking cups of cacao due to the increased flow of blood to the brain.

Chocolate is also known to help with mood because it contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphines in your body.

Many studies have been done regarding the antioxidant content and health effects of chocolate and while some conclude that the negative effects of the fat and sugar intake cancel out the positive effects of the flavanols, everyone seems to agree that cacao does contain significant levels of healthy antioxidants than can prove to have health benefits if consumed in moderation and in the purest form as possible.

The Final Verdict

While chocolate is a sugary and fatty food that should be eaten in moderation, there are antioxidants that can be very healthy for your body in certain types of chocolates. Dark chocolates and unprocessed, pure cacao are by far the healthiest of all chocolate forms due to their higher flavanol content and lower sugar and fat content than milk chocolates.

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