Ok ok- you've probably come expecting some sort of cheeky Star Wars reference right? But what if we had something better, like chocolate?
Heck, a lot more people would probably come to the dark side!
But all jokes and lame puns aside, dark chocolate is really good for you. Like seriously health-promoting.
Yes, what if we told you that eating dark chocolate every day has some amazing health benefits? You may not believe us, but it’s true! Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that can improve your health in a number of ways.
It traditionally has a bad rep, but the tide is turning and fast.
Read on to learn more about the many benefits it has and why you should eat more (like if you needed another reason, anyway).
What Is Different About Dark Chocolate?
Many people don't appreciate the big difference between dark chocolate and regular milk chocolate, and that's where many of the benefits are actually missed.
In order for chocolate to be classified as dark, it must have a cacao content of at least 50%. The higher the percentage, the darker the chocolate and the higher the quality.
In fact, many of the best dark chocolate brands around routinely contain over 70% cocoa.
The health benefits are directly linked to the cacao content- which is why you'll want to make sure you're eating quality dark chocolate with a high cacao content for maximum benefit.
In contrast, milk chocolate can contain anywhere between 10-50% cocoa and is often loaded with sugar and some sort of milk additive, amongst other unhealthy ingredients.
Dark Chocolate Nutrients
Many of the nutrients found in dark chocolate can be attributed to cacao itself, which tends to be higher in dark chocolate, compared to milk chocolate.
You can find the following:
1. Caffeine: Although the amount of caffeine in dark chocolate is substantially lower than in coffee, it’s still enough to give you a little boost. A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains about 12 mg of caffeine — approximately the same amount as in a cup of decaf coffee. Yes, we know that's not a lot, but caffeine-naive individuals will experience a tiny kick.
2. Theobromine: This is a stimulant similar to caffeine but weaker. It’s also found in cacao beans and can have some health benefits of its own. It is known for improving breathing and acting as a cough suppressant
3. Fat: Most of the fat in dark chocolate is saturated, but it also contains healthy fats known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are the “good” kinds of fat that help to improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
4. Fiber: Yes, dark chocolate is a good source of fiber, with one bar providing 11 grams or about a third of the recommended daily intake. The kind present in chocolate is the soluble variety, important for keeping your gut microbiome healthy and promoting regularity.
5. Iron: This mineral is essential for transporting oxygen to all the cells in your body and plays a role in energy production. One dark chocolate bar provides about 11% of the recommended daily intake of iron.
6. Magnesium: This important mineral is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions and is critically involved in ATP and energy production. It is also needed for proper muscle function, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation. Just one dark chocolate bar contains about 58% of the recommended daily intake for magnesium.
7. Potassium: This mineral is essential for proper heart function and fluid balance in the body. One dark chocolate bar contains about 10% of the recommended daily intake for potassium.
8. Zinc: This mineral is critical for a strong immune system, wound healing, testosterone levels and fertility. One dark chocolate bar contains about 8% of the recommended daily intake for zinc.
9. Protein: Dark chocolate also contains some protein, with one bar providing about 3 grams. This may not sound like much, but it's important to remember that dark chocolate is a very calorie-dense food.
10.Flavonoids: The most noteworthy group of nutrients found in dark chocolate, including one known as epicatechin. Epicatechin is responsible for the lion's share of dark chocolate's benefits. Epicatechin and other well-known catechins found in green tea are also classified as polyphenols.
Why Have More Dark Chocolate?
It's Good For Your Sanity
If you follow a fairly robust diet plan, you would know that sacrifices have to be made. That usually means avoidance of processed foods loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and other additives.
And while you may feel good about saying "no" to that milkshake or slice of cake, it can sometimes take a toll on your mental health- especially if you have a major sweet tooth. This is where dark chocolate comes in.
It's a healthier alternative to milk chocolate and will help control those diet-busting cravings you've been having.
The human body prefers a state of homeostasis. This goes for just about anything, including muscle building. If you've ever wondered why you struggle to gain muscle, it could be due to a little-known hormone called myostatin.
This hormone works by essentially telling your body to stop building muscle. So if you're trying to bulk up, myostatin is working against you.
But here's where dark chocolate comes in- the epicatechin it contains can suppress levels of myostatin in the body.
Plus, it can also help increase levels of a different hormone; follistatin, which can promote muscle growth and itself suppress other breakdown factors.
If you're following a bodybuilding style program and looking to gain significant muscle size and strength, a little bit of dark chocolate daily could go a very far way.
Increased Nitric Oxide Production
We don't need to discuss all the benefits of nitric oxide (because we've done that already HERE), but the fact is that you want to increase your nitric oxide.
However, there are some differences in the extent to which dar chocolate does this, as well as the mechanism itself.
Typically NO boosters such as arginine, citrulline, or nitrate-rich foods are capable of raising levels in a jiffy, but the effect usually subsides rapidly as well.
Epicatechin does not raise NO in a rush. This means that taking it prior to your workout will not yield the effects you are looking for.
But on the positive, its effects don't dwindle as fast either. This makes it useful even in the absence of exercise.
Can you guess what else this would benefit?
Your cardiovascular health.
Not only would this lower your blood pressure, but it would also increase blood flow and reduce the risk of clotting.
This is a huge benefit, especially as you get older and your cardiovascular system starts to deteriorate.
A risk reduction of just 10% could make a huge difference in the likelihood of you experiencing heart attacks or strokes over your lifetime.
May Promote Body Recomposition
Many people that train to improve physical health also want to look good doing it.
And unfortunately, the two often don't go hand in hand. This is where body recomposition comes in- gaining muscle while losing fat.
The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolism will be; which will make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
This is how dark chocolate and its epicatechin content can help.
Plus- on a side note; epicatechin is classified as a catechin, the same type of compound found in green tea that helps with its metabolism boosting and weight loss potential.
It's not directly lipolytic, but by virtue of increasing muscle gain potential, you'll find it much easier to lose fat while gaining muscle.
It's a bit more complicated than that, but the gist of it is that if you're stuck at a weight loss plateau, dark chocolate and a high potency Creatine + ATP supplement such as Foundation can do wonders for your progression.
Improved Exercise Capacity
The progress you make while training is fairly congruent with how much volume you're able to handle.
In order to grow, your muscles need to be pushed to their limits on a regular basis. But if you're constantly feeling fatigued, it'll be very difficult to do so.
This is where dark chocolate comes in yet again.
It's been shown to improve exercise performance and endurance, making it easier for you to hit new PRs and increase your training volume.
Plus, by improving blood flow and oxygen utilization, which will further help with muscular endurance.
So if you're looking to take your training to the next level, dark chocolate may be just what you need.
Excessive oxidation and inflammatory processes are the primary reasons why premature aging occurs, sometimes uncontrollably owing to lack of anti-oxidant faculties.
Our bodies do produce such molecules innately, but it is still very important to consume foods that are good sources of additional anti-oxidants, especially plant based foods.
Dark chocolate, made from high quality cacao seeds, retain much of the natural anti-oxidant properties.
These can contribute to skin health, preserved vision, and a reduced risk of inflammatory cardiovascular and cholesterol outcomes.
It is recommended to consume at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of veggies daily in order to meet the quota for these important nutrients.
If you are unable to, for one reason for another, Field Of Greens is there to help you meet your needs.
Possible Considerations Before Having More Dark Chocolate
Surely, there couldn't be anything bad about consuming more dark chocolate, right?
Well, there are always two sides to every coin. So let's take a look at the potential downsides of consuming too much dark chocolate.
May Contribute to Fat Gain
This one seems a bit counterintuitive, but it's important to understand how calories work.
Weight gain or loss boils down to a very simple equation- energy in vs. energy out.
If you're consuming more calories than you're burning, you'll gain weight. And if you're doing the reverse, you'll lose weight.
It's really that simple.
Now, dark chocolate does contain a fair amount of calories and fat. If you're not actively working out, you might create a perfect storm; excess caloric intake and no stimulus to trigger protein synthesis and muscle growth.
Thus, you're unlikely to get the body recomp effects it can deliver.
May Increase Cancer Risk
Cancer risk is a relative thing. Some people are just more prone to development as a result of genetic factors, no matter how much they control environmental and lifestyle variables.
But for those that aren't, it's important to understand how different foods can influence your cancer risk.
With regards to dark chocolate, this is related to its ability to increase levels of the hormone follistatin.
There are several subtypes of follistatin; one that enhances muscle gain, one that promotes cardiovascular health, and another (Follistatin 288) that may increase the risk of cancer or tumor development- especially male reproductive cancers, although lung and gastric cancers are also a possibility.
The good news, however, is that this particular variant of follistatin is in low concentrations in the human body, so it will be a non-issue for the majority of consumers.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should I Eat Daily?
Let's not get too eager. Dark chocolate should still technically be considered a treat. Two squares should be sufficient to get the benefits without throwing your macros overboard. If you prefer, supplements standardized to contain only epicatechin also exist, but you will be missing out on all the additional nutrients chocolate brings to the table.
Overall, dark chocolate is a great way to help boost your health and even performance
Just remember to not overdo it, and to get the good stuff- look for at least 70% cacao content. Your body (and taste buds) will thank you!