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Is Dark Chocolate Healthy?

Looking for a gift for your partner this Valentine’s Day? Consider dark chocolate, which can benefit their health in surprising ways.

Dark chocolate pieces stacked on a wooden board with cinnamon and star anise surrounding it.

Dark chocolate is good for you. Yes, you heard that right. One of life’s guilty pleasures is loaded with health benefits. Not only does it taste good, but you can also now indulge in it, knowing it’s healthy. It also makes a great gift for Valentine’s Day for your special someone.

This Valentine’s Day, treat your partner (and yourself) to dark chocolate, sans the guilt. Read on to discover more ways to justify an everlasting love for this tasty treat. 

What are the Health Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate? 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), unsweetened dark chocolate is believed to be therapeutic and warm-natured.

“Eating dark chocolate provides warmth, increases energy levels, alleviates fatigue and makes people happy. It may also improve gastrointestinal functions by strengthening Spleen, stomach, and large intestine qi (vital life force).”  

Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew

Dark chocolate truffles on a wooden plate.
Eating dark chocolate truffles can give your body warmth and energy.

Contains different types of essential minerals 

Dark chocolate is a potent source of various minerals, each playing an important role in keeping you healthy. 

Zinc fortifies your immune system, while magnesium helps you sleep better. Plus, the phosphorus it contains strengthens both your bite and your bones. We’re not sure about you, but that’s a win in our books! 

Regulates blood pressure  

The flavanols found in dark chocolate can help relax blood vessels and improve circulation. The antioxidant properties of flavanols not only support your body’s fight against cell-related damage, but may also prevent heart-related issues like hypertension.

Puts you in a better mood 

If you’re looking for a reason to smile, dark chocolate may be it. A study revealed that people who ate 85% cocoa chocolate had great emotional control, compared to those who chose to skip it. The reason? Polyphenols, which may help boost your mood.

Helps prevent diabetes 

Besides being your new ray of sunshine, polyphenols in dark chocolate may help prevent or delay diabetes mellitus.

A study published by Appetite found that people who ate dark chocolate at least once weekly were less likely to have diabetes, even a few years later. Now your other half can have their cake and eat it too, especially if it’s made of dark chocolate!  

Improves athletic performance

Man exercising with a kettlebell in a gym.
Dark chocolate may help improve muscle strength and endurance.

Eating dark chocolate regularly may also take your athletic performance up a notch. Specifically, the epicatechin – a type of polyphenol – in chocolate helps your body adapt to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises and build muscle more easily.

These benefits are partly due to myostatin inhibition – a type of protein that limits muscle growth. In addition, epicatechin promotes muscle blood flow by increasing nitric oxide production and stimulates the formation of new blood vessels.

What Happens If You Eat Too Much Dark Chocolate?  

You can have too much of a good thing. Dark chocolate can be high in calories, especially if it contains added sugar, 150 to 170 calories per ounce, to be exact. If you eat too much of it, you could gain weight. Richer variants also contain more caffeine, which can worsen acid reflux or trigger heartburn.

In TCM, going overboard with dark chocolate leads to the formation of pathogens that trigger different health issues. These include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, indigestion, constipation, and heart palpitations.

Herbal Alternatives if Your Partner Dislikes Dark Chocolate 

If your partner isn’t a fan of dark chocolate, no problem. They can reap the same benefits by going the herbal route. These natural herbs offer similar benefits and can be added to dishes. Some examples of these are:  

Close-up of mulberry fruits and leaves outdoors. 
Mulberry fruits and leaves can be combined with dark chocolate to cool the body and restore the body’s blood volume in TCM.

Combining dark chocolate with other ingredients might unlock new flavours that don’t just taste good, but also help balance the body. Some ingredients to try are: 

  • Monkfruit (luo han guo, 罗汉果): Cools the body  
  • Peppermint (bo he, 薄荷): Protects against disease and increases energy levels 
  • American ginseng (西洋参): Restores qi and yin (passive energy) 
  • Chrysanthemum flower (ju hua, 菊花): Protects against disease and soothes the Liver  
  • Mulberry fruit (sang shen, 桑葚): Restores blood volume and cools the body 
  • Mulberry leaf (sang ye, 桑叶): Dispels pathogens, lowers blood temperature, and soothes the Liver  
  • Bamboo leaves (dan zhu ye, 淡竹叶): Cools and relaxes the body 
  • Radix Adenophorae (nan sha shen, 南沙参): Cools the body, restores blood flow  
  • Gynostemma Herb (jiao gu lan, 绞股蓝): Gives energy and protects against disease  
  • Fragrant Solomonseal rhizome (yu zhu, 玉竹), Coastal Glehnia root (bei sha shen, 北沙参), and Dwarf Lilyturf Tuber (mai dong, 麦冬): Cools the body 

This Valentine’s Day, express your love and show how much you care by gifting your partner (or yourself) dark chocolate. You’ll kill two birds with one stone and show that not all gifts need to be expensive to be meaningful.

Not a fan of it? Try herbal ingredients from the above list instead. But before you do, speak to a licensed TCM practitioner to avoid potential contraindications. 

Have other creative yet healthy Valentine’s Day gift ideas to share? Tell us in the comments below.

References

  1. The Westbridge. CHOCOLATE DARK? MILK? WHITE? HOW YOUR CHOCOLATE CHOICE REFLECTS YOUR PERSONALITY. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Dark Chocolate Health Benefits. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 
  3. Abbott. 2017. Dark Chocolate and Diabetes: The Benefits of This Tasty Snack. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 
  4. Transparent Labs. Curious Catechins: Epicatechin Supplement Benefits Explored. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2021. The “Angiogenic Switch” and Functional Resources in Cyclic Sports Athletes. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 
  6. Harvard T.H. Chan. Dark Chocolate. [online] [Accessed 19 January 2023] 

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