There aren’t many people on this planet that dislike chocolate. Whether it’s ice cream, cookies, hot chocolate, or just a plain old candy bar, most of us will jump at the opportunity to take a bite.
But what happens to our bodies if we eat chocolate on a regular basis? In order to find out, we talked to dietitians Courtney D’Angelo, MS, RDauthor at Go Wellness, and Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements about the surprising effects of eating chocolate every day.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all chocolate is created equal. Cacao in its natural form is full of healthy antioxidants and nutrients, which is why dark chocolate is often healthier than other types that come packed with added sugar.
Here’s what you need to know if you enjoy a daily bite of chocolate, and for more healthy eating tips, check out Eating Habits to Help Boost Your Metabolism.
Dark chocolate has been found to possibly help improve your heart health because of its powerful antioxidants called flavonoids.
“There are antioxidants in dark chocolate that can increase blood circulation in the heart, reduce the risk of clotting, and have even been shown to lower blood pressure,” says D’Angelo. “That said, a healthy relationship with chocolate could lower the risks of stroke and heart disease.”
As if we needed more excuses to eat chocolate, some research says it may improve your mood.
“If you think about it, eating chocolate almost always improves your mood, and studies have shown that people who ate chocolate reported feeling less stress,” says D’Angelo. “Researchers believe it’s because of how chocolate may positively impact heart health, since stress is a risk factor of cardiovascular disease.”
However, it’s important to be aware not only of how much chocolate you’re eating, but the quality as well. Diets higher in added sugars have actually been linked to more cases of anxiety and depression, which means that eating lower-sugar chocolate like dark chocolate, may be a better option.
Here’s why this type of chocolate will improve your gut and mood.
While dark chocolate contains many helpful nutrients, more processed chocolates like milk or white chocolate can be full of mostly added sugar.
“Certain types of chocolate can be a source of empty calories, meaning your body is primarily getting calories and very few vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients,” says Best. “Empty calorie foods may contribute to weight gain, and when they are made with added sugars they can also lead to increased cravings. Eating chocolate regularly can create a sugar crash which inevitably leads to mood swings, increased hunger, and other potential negative side effects like increased blood glucose.”
Fruit can be a great way to get the natural sugars and carbohydrates your body needs, but if you’re eating chocolate every day, it may alter your sugar cravings and opportunity for natural sweetness.
“Eating chocolate daily may prevent you from finding healthier alternatives for your sweet tooth,” says Best. “When you eat added sugar on a regular basis you can begin to lose your taste for true sweetness, like fruit.”
Some research also shows that when you eat processed or added sugar, you could be more likely to form a habit of craving more sugar. And oftentimes this is when we’ll reach for more chocolate or candy instead of natural sugars.
“Chocolate contains magnesium, which has many benefits and is a mineral found naturally occurring in the earth as well as the human body,” says Best. “It is vital to life as it is contained in every cell of the body and important for carrying out many bodily functions. This mineral is important for brain health as well, and not only works within the brain for mood and cognitive support, but also outside of the brain in the blood vessels.”
It’s important to note of course that the darker the chocolate, the more nutritional the value and the more magnesium you consume. Milk chocolate may still contain nutrients, but its nutritional value goes down if it’s loaded with added sugars and other processed ingredients.