The truth about chocolate and health
Feb. 10, 2023—Every year around Valentine's Day, we hear claims about chocolate's health benefits. But does chocolate really offer goodness beyond its delicious taste?
The answer could be a qualified yes. The cocoa beans in chocolate contain antioxidants called flavanols. And antioxidants are believed to reduce damage to cells. Since damaged cells can lead to cancer, it might follow that chocolate could help prevent cancer.
But that logic may be flawed. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), research looking into chocolate's effect on cancer is mixed at best. Some studies have found that chocolate reduces the risk for certain cancers. Some have not. Others have even found that eating chocolate actually raises cancer risk.
A sweet shot at heart health?
But the heart can always hope—and the heart is where chocolate may bestow its health benefits. Flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure and improve the function of your heart, veins and arteries, according to the ACS.
And here's another possible plus for chocolate: People who indulged in up to 100 grams a day had a lower risk of stroke and heart disease than those who abstained, a large observational study found.
The bottom line? It's OK to indulge now and then, but when you do, try to choose dark chocolate. According to the ACS, high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao/cocoa may benefit your heart to some extent. Check the label. And remember: Sugar should not be the first ingredient listed.
Dark chocolate is still candy, and those extra calories can add up. So eat it sparingly. Extra body weight can take a toll on your heart health.
- American Cancer Society. "Is Chocolate Good for You?" https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/is-chocolate-good-for-you.html.
- American Heart Association. "Are There Health Benefits From Chocolate?" https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/12/are-there-health-benefits-from-chocolate.
- EatRight.org. "How to Handle Food Cravings." https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthful-habits/how-to-handle-food-cravings.
- Heart. "Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Healthy Men and Women." https://heart.bmj.com/content/101/16/1279.