According to the University of Michigan Health System, dark chocolate is an important part of a balanced diet, and a recommended amount is up to 7 ounces per week, which means not exceeding the amount of 1 ounce per day.
Thanks to the microbes that we have in our stomachs, our body is able to ferment the antioxidants and the fiber that we take in through cocoa. These microbes help our body battle against inflammations and due to their effect on our bodies, it is safe to say that chocolate consumption in moderate amounts can be beneficial for our cardiovascular system and overall health of the body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, chocolate is good for your heart because the cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids, which are a class of plant nutrients. These nutrients protect plants from toxins that lurk in the environment, and repair damage, while at the same time being beneficial for you, as they are a powerful antioxidant. Flavonoids can also be found in fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are an important part of everyone’s nutrition, as they help the body resist the damages that normal bodily processes cause, such as breathing, or some less normal processes such as smoking. If the body lacks antioxidants, it is less able to fight the oxidation that occurs and it can then be damaged by free radicals.
Flavanols (the main type of flavonoid) are also potentially beneficial for your vascular health, as they seem to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. The Cleveland Clinic reports that except chocolate, there is also a variety of foods that are rich in flavonoids, including apples, peanuts, onions, red wine, and others.
However, it is important to have in mind that not all sorts of chocolate are healthy or contain high levels of flavanols. The more chocolate is processed (fermentation, roasting, etc), the more of these healthy nutrients are lost. This means that most of your favorite commercial chocolates are actually not healthy as they are highly processed. On the bright side, many chocolate manufacturers are trying to keep as much of flavanols as possible in their processed chocolates.
The best and healthiest choice would with no doubt be dark chocolate over milk chocolate (since milk chocolate is filled with milk and sugars). Dark chocolate is relatively lower in sugar and fats which makes it healthier than milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate also seems to be helpful when dealing with stress, since a moderate amount of chocolate can lower the stress hormone levels, reducing the metabolic effects of stress on your body. According to ACS (American Chemical Society), a study they conducted showed that eating an ounce of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced the stress hormone levels in the bodies of people who were highly stressed, and partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.
Telmo Pereira of the Department of Cardiopneumology in Portugal found that young adults who ate a small square of 70% cocoa chocolate every day for 1 month had a significant improvement in vascular function, concluding that consuming dark chocolate in a moderate amount can help decrease the risk of heart disease. Pereira links these benefits to cocoa and concludes that chocolates that contain higher levels of cocoa are better and healthier. Even pure cocoa powder is good to be added to hot beverages or as a topping. But when it comes to recommending the right amount of cocoa, a clear conclusion is still yet to be made, but Pereira clearly states that consuming large quantities of any chocolate, including this healthy dark chocolate, can lead to weight gain, and should therefore be consumed in moderation.