6 surprising reasons why chocolate is good for you!

Chocolate, with its rich aroma and pleasant taste, has been enjoyed by people for many centuries.


Beyond its obviously rather irresistible taste, chocolate has a surprising number of fantastic health benefits, meaning next time you are tucking into this delectable delight, feeling guilty shouldn’t be on your mind!

This ‘chocolatey’ blog will uncover the wonderful reasons why indulging in this sweet treat can be good for both your body and mind.

1. Antioxidant powerhouse

With the abundance of different types of chocolate, dark chocolate is often considered the form that is the most nutritious.

But why is this?

Well, it is packed with potent antioxidants, such as flavonoids and polyphenols. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralise free radicals. These free radicals are unstable molecules, that can harm the cells in the body. They do this by damaging molecules within the cell such as DNA and proteins. This can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer.

This means antioxidants play a crucial role in the body to help reduce inflammation and the development of chronic diseases. Therefore, by indulging in a couple of squares of dark chocolate, you're not only satisfying your sweet palate; you're also giving your body a good dose of protective nutrients.

2. Heart health

Who would have thought chocolate could be good for the heart?

Yes, moderate consumption of dark chocolate has been linked with various cardiovascular benefits. Various studies have suggested regular consumption of cocoa and therefore its flavonoids have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. 

As already discussed the flavonoids in dark chocolate, provide a potent boost of antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow. This means arteries are less likely to become blocked by a build-up of fat and cholesterol, therefore reducing the chance of heart disease.  

3. Cognitive function

Chocolate can also be beneficial for brain health.

Yes, those flavonoids are at it again! Those lovely, beneficial compounds found in cocoa have been shown to boost cognitive function, including our memory and focus!  

Flavonoids found abundantly in dark chocolate aid in the expansion of blood vessels, hence their beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system as explained above. Dilated blood vessels also mean an increased blood flow to the brain, helping increase the growth of neurons, which are a type of cell that sends messages back and forth between the body and the brain.

A review from 2017 stated that incorporating chocolate into your diet could potentially help stave off age-related cognitive decline and improve overall brain health.

During the ageing process, we are more at risk of brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, along with suffering from a stroke. Therefore including dark chocolate in the diet could potentially reduce the chances of developing these problems that can also lead to dementia.

4. Gut health

Another surprising benefit of chocolate and especially the dark variety is its beneficial effect on our gut.

Dark chocolate is especially high in prebiotic fibre from cocoa beans. Prebiotics provide a lovely fuel source for the ‘good bacteria’ in your gut. This means the good bacteria can continue to grow and thrive and keep the more pathogenic microbes (‘bad bacteria’) in check.

Another gut health benefit comes from the antioxidant content of the chocolate, but more specifically the polyphenols, which essentially work as a ‘fertiliser’ for your gut bacteria. Again like the fibre content of dark chocolate, the polyphenols help feed the good bacteria and suppress the growth of the bad guys! How good?!

This means the digestive system is more likely to function better with better absorption and assimilation of nutrients, along with fewer chances of gas, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

To add further to this, better digestion can positively impact not only the gut, but also the immune system and even mental well-being, so it is well worth looking after!

5. Skin health

Want better skin? Dark chocolate is a good food to have in your arsenal of skin care foods.

The skin health benefits of dark chocolate come from its antioxidant content or more specifically the flavanols, a type of antioxidant very similar to the already mentioned flavonoids. According to research, these flavanols help mitigate the skin-damaging effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun, along with helping hydrate the skin and reduce wrinkles.

Just a quick caveat to that, if you already suffer from acne, dark chocolate could potentially make symptoms worse, therefore this is something to consider if you are affected by acne.  

6. Nutritional value

Having read this article so far, you are probably realising that chocolate shouldn’t just be considered a sinful indulgence.

On top of the benefits already discussed, it is also just a general nutrient powerhouse.

Dark chocolate, in particular, is a good source of iron, magnesium, and copper, all of which play important roles in maintaining our overall day-to-day health. Such as increasing our energy, supporting the immune system, and enhancing sleep and mental well-being.

Certainly, the moderate consumption of chocolate can be incorporated into a balanced diet, providing a source of energy and satisfaction without excessive guilt.

Take home message

As a nutrition practitioner, I generally advocate the ‘80/20 rule’ meaning make healthy choices 80% of the time.

Many people feel chocolate fits into that 20% of unhealthy food choices. However a couple of squares of dark chocolate, given its nutrient profile and the plethora of benefits explained above can certainly be considered part of your 80% of healthy food choices.

Dark chocolate is considered the better choice, as it is generally the cocoa content that provides all of the chocolate's wonderful benefits. Typically, milk chocolate only contains 25% of the cocoa its dark counterpart contains. Milk chocolate also typically contains more sugar than dark chocolate.

When choosing a bar of dark chocolate in your local store, to optimise your health it’s worth aiming to follow the below guidelines:

  • 70% or more cocoa content
  • low sugar and no artificial sweeteners

In conclusion, chocolate is much more than just a tasty treat; dark chocolate, in particular, has a deep treasure of fascinating health benefits.

From reducing inflammation to improving gut health and possibly even helping you reduce the chance of heart disease, added to this its positive effects on the brain, I think you’d agree chocolate should not just be considered an ill-disciplined treat, but a food that can have a very positive impact on your health and well-being.

When chocolate is eaten in moderation, you are doing far more than just satisfying a craving, in the case of dark chocolate especially, you are actually helping nourish your body in a variety of ways.

Therefore, learn to embrace this somewhat sweet indulgence and let small amounts of chocolate, especially the dark variety, be a guilt-free part of a balanced diet as you follow the journey to optimised health and wellness.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham B4 & B23
Written by Jonny Carter, Clinical Nutritionist & Personal Trainer, BSc, DIP ION, PGCE
Birmingham B4 & B23

Jonny Carter is a Nutrition Consultant and Personal Trainer, who's made several TV appearances.

He believes in a sustainable approach to nutrition, meaning you can eat well to optimise your health whilst still enjoying life!

He can be booked for one-to-one consultations along with corporate sessions.


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