Dark chocolate is a bittersweet treat loaded with powerful antioxidants, known as flavanols, that offer far-reaching health benefits.
Made from cacao tree seeds, dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa can deliver these health benefits with less added sugar than in other types of chocolate.
Potential perks of eating this superfood include improved cognitive function, a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and lower blood pressure.
Still, eating dark chocolate in moderation is best. Registered dietitians recommend eating a maximum of 1 ounce daily to reap its health benefits while keeping calories and saturated fat in check.
Here’s why you should consider adding a bit of dark chocolate to your diet.
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Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
It may benefit the heart
Dark chocolate is bursting with natural substances called flavanols, which have proven antioxidant properties.
Flavanols are in plants like the cacao tree and help to produce the nitric oxide that improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Better blood flow means better protection from heart disease, a stronger heart, and improved overall health.
It contains fiber
Dark chocolate has about 3 grams of fiber per ounce, making it a great source of fiber compared to other sweet treats.
Fiber helps keep the body regular, prevents constipation, and maintains bowel health. It can also help to manage hunger, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Adults need between 25 and 35 grams of fiber daily to stay healthy. Dark chocolate, alongside whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables is a good way to reach this goal.
It may protect your skin, teeth, and support sleep
Dark chocolate is high in flavanols, which improve blood flow to your skin and even protect it from the effects of ultraviolet rays and sun damage.
It’s also packed with vital minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals can support immunity, healthy bones and teeth, and sleep quality. Keep in mind that chocolate contains caffeine, so consuming it earlier in the day is best.
What Percentage of Dark Chocolate Is the Healthiest?
Dark chocolate made with 70% or higher cacao offers the most flavanols and health benefits.
Healthy and Simple Dark Chocolate Recipes
Dark chocolate cherry granola bars
- 1 cup dried tart cherries
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350° F and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Combine cherries, oats, walnuts, and flaxseed meal in a food processor finely chopped.
- In mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, cocoa powder, and vanilla until smooth.
- Combine oats mixture in the bowl and stir.
- Add dark chocolate chips to the bowl and stir.
- Pour mixture on baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes and let bars cool before slicing.
No-bake dark chocolate energy bites
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- In a bowl, whisk together peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon until smooth.
- Add oats, chia seeds, coconut, flaxseed meal, and dark chocolate chips to the bowl and stir until mixed well.
- Use a medium cookie scoop to form into bite-sized balls from the mixture.
- Serve immediately or chill for 30 minutes if desired.
Dark chocolate almond bark
- 1 pound solid dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher)
- 1 cup roasted chopped almonds
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and finely chop the dark chocolate.
- Set a saucepan of simmering water over medium heat and fit a fire-safe bowl over top of it.
- Place chocolate in the bowl and let melt, stirring occasionally. The bowl should never touch the water.
- Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until completely melted.
- Quickly stir in the almonds and spread mixture into a 1/2-inch-thick layer on the baking sheet.
- Refrigerate for 10 minutes until hardened.
- Remove the parchment paper and break into pieces to enjoy!
About UPMC Nutrition Services
Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.