The average American consumes nearly 10 pounds of chocolate each year. That’s equivalent to eating three Hershey’s kisses every day. Some studies make lofty claims like you can lose weight by eating chocolate. Claims like this lead one to ask, “Is chocolate actually good for our health or do the negative effects of eating chocolate outweigh the benefits?”
Around 1900 B.C., Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztecs, roasted cacao beans, ground them into a paste, and mixed the paste with hot water, vanilla, chili peppers and other spices for a frothy drink. These civilizations believed this beverage was a mood-enhancing aphrodisiac that also held spiritual significance.
The botanical name Theobroma cacao, also known as the cacao tree, translates to “food of the Gods.” Most people would agree it’s an accurate description of such a “heavenly” treat.
Potential Health Benefits
The main ingredient of chocolate, the cacao bean, contains more than 300 compounds with health benefits. For example, dopamine and serotonin are mood enhancers and promote a feeling of well-being. Cocoa beans also contain antioxidants, which can fight aging and lower your risk heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
The British company J.S. Fry & Sons produced the first chocolate bar in 1847.
Eating dark chocolate can:
- Help lower your blood pressure
- Improve your memory
- Keep your arteries in good working order
- Lower your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol
- Reduce stress
Chocolate probably won’t help your fact retention for trivia night or halt the sands of time to keep you forever young, but studies have associated moderate dark chocolate consumption with better heart health.
The Unfortunate Truth
Most store-bought chocolates carry large quantities of added sugar, cream and milk, which can lead to weight gain if you’re not careful. Carrying excess weight increases your risk of:
At The Heart of It
Plenty of evidence suggests cocoa can provide beneficial contributions to your heart and overall health. High-quality dark chocolate contains higher amounts of cocoa, which hold the beneficial effects of chocolate. You can enjoy chocolate as an occasional treat as part of a normal healthy diet. Just keep in mind that eating it too often can lead to serious health problems. It just goes to show that, yes, you can have too much of a good thing.