10 Surprising Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate Every Day, Backed by Science

If you’re a chocolate lover like me, you might be surprised to know that there are scientific benefits to eating chocolate, specifically dark chocolate.  

I’ve reviewed the scientific literature to bring you this top ten list of benefits of eating dark chocolate.  

Now it doesn’t have to be a “guilty pleasure” – it’s a healthy pleasure!

Key Takeaways:

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  • Eating a small serving of dark chocolate each day can boost your mood, improve your heart health, and even assist with reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa for the most benefit; the darker the chocolate, the better.
  • Combine chocolate with healthy carbohydrates and a lean source of protein for an overall balanced meal or snack.

What Is Considered “Dark” Chocolate?

When it comes to the official food labeling requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), “dark” chocolate must have at least 65% cocoa.  

However, there are no rules that require chocolate with 65% (or more) cocoa to be called “dark chocolate,” so you may also see the terms “semi-sweet” or “bittersweet” chocolate.  Whenever possible, check the label to confirm the percentage of cocoa.

The higher the percentage of cocoa, the less added sugar and/or dairy products chocolate will have.  Cocoa solids from the cacao plant are what have the phytochemicals (plant-based compounds) that are good for you. 

So, when it comes to health benefits, the darker the better. Harvard School of Public Health says to aim for a minimum of 70% cocoa in your dark chocolate, and ideally 85% or more (also called bitter chocolate).

Nutritional Information For Dark Chocolate

Looking at the nutritional information for dark chocolate helps to provide an understanding of how the nutritional profile changes as you consume higher percentages:

Per 100g60-69% cocoa70-85% cocoa90-99% cocoa
Protein6.12 g7.8 g14.3 g
Fat38.3 g42.6 g50 g
Carbs52.4 g45.9 g35.7 g
Fiber8.0 g10.9 g14.3 g
Sugar36.7 g24.0 g0.0 g
Iron6.32 mg11.9 mg10.9 mg
Magnesium176 mg228 mg252 mg
Zinc2.65 mg3.31 mg3.5 mg

As you can see, while the calorie content is similar across the different types of chocolate, as the cocoa content increases, the protein, fat and fiber go up, and the carbs and sugar go down.  

As for micronutrients, this chart focuses on three important minerals in dark chocolate: iron, magnesium and zinc.  

One 30-gram serving of dark chocolate provides 18% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of both iron and magnesium.

Dar chocolate  is also a good source of zinc, providing approximately 11% of the.

One thing you won’t see on nutrition labels are the phytochemicals in dark chocolate.  

Specifically, dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols (including flavonoids), and these compounds help plants defend themselves against ultraviolet radiation and pathogens.  

These protective properties extend to human health, as well.

I’ll explain more about the benefits of these phytochemicals, in the next section, below.

Benefits Of Eating Dark Chocolate Every Day

benefits of eating dark chocolate every day

1. Improve Heart Health

The flavonoids in dark chocolate have several health-promoting benefits, including lowering risk of heart disease.  

Dietary fiber is also beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.  In the linked study, people with the highest fiber diets were 25% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and 10-15% less likely to experience a stroke than people with the lowest fiber diets.

With 4 grams of fiber per 30-gram serving, dark chocolate actually provides more fiber than 5 dried prunes, so it can be helpful in reaching the recommended daily fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, to get the benefits for heart health.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

The same flavonoids that reduce the risk of heart disease also lower blood pressure

This is the case for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which decreased by an average of 6 points when study participants ate 25 grams of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks.

Magnesium (recall that dark chocolate is an excellent source) is also involved in the regulation of blood pressure, explaining another reason why dark chocolate can help with hypertension.

3. Reduce Inflammation

The polyphenols in dark chocolate are both antioxidative and anti-inflammatory. 

A study in 2018 saw improved markers of chronic inflammation when participants consumed 30 grams of dark chocolate (84% cocoa) daily for 8 weeks.  

While inflammation in the body can be a normal part of stopping infections and healing from injuries or rebuilding muscles to be even stronger after training, when inflammation goes on long-term (chronic inflammation) outside of these specific scenarios, it can lead to fatigue, digestive problems, muscle loss, and weight gain.  

Reducing chronic inflammation through diet (like regular servings of dark chocolate) and exercise can improve these signs and symptoms and improve your health overall. 

4. Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Even a very small daily dose of dark chocolate has benefits. 

Ingesting just 2 grams of 70% dark chocolate every day for 6 months led to improved insulin sensitivity.  This means the body will respond to the ingestion of sugar with the right amount of insulin to balance blood sugar to provide steady energy levels all day.

Plus, improved insulin sensitivity can mean a lower risk of developing diabetes.  The participants in the linked study saw a big enough improvement to move them out of the “at-risk for pre-diabetes” category to normal levels.

5. Lower LDL Cholesterol

Naysayers will argue that chocolate is high in saturated fat, which is linked to higher levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, but this study showed that regular chocolate consumption (including 43 grams of dark chocolate per day for 4 weeks) reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol by 6-12 mg/dL.  This drop reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 6%.

Lower LDL cholesterol is associated with lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

6. Improve Immunity

Next time you feel the sniffles coming on, instead of just reaching for Vitamin C to bolster your immune system, think of Vitamin C as meaning “Vitamin chocolate.”  

It turns out that cacao consumption up-regulates cellular immune response with just one week of 48 grams of 70% cocoa dark chocolate per day.  Plus, the zinc in dark chocolate helps to support a healthy immune system.

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that chocolate and orange flavor pair so well.

7. Boost Mood

If you’ve ever felt better after eating chocolate, it’s not just the delicious taste that’s responsible.  

Science confirms that dark chocolate consumption is linked to significantly lower rates of symptoms of depression (as much as 70% lower odds of reporting depressive symptoms compared to those who don’t eat chocolate) and lower stress.

Dark chocolate is also an excellent source of iron, and iron’s role in creating healthy blood cells helps to carry oxygen from the lungs to the brain to boost mood, reduce fatigue and improve focus.

8. Improve Brain Health

While we often think that our mental health is in some way different from our physical health, the brain is another physical organ in the body like the heart.  

The flavonoids in dark chocolate also have brain health benefits and have been studied to show positive qualitative impacts for cognition, learning and memory.

9. Maintain Body Weight

When you think of “diet food,” dark chocolate is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.  

But, the high fat and fiber content of dark chocolate actually make it very satiating and the polyphenols may decrease fat absorption.  This makes dark chocolate a snack that truly satisfies, compared to sugary options that leave you feeling hungry for more.

In a properly calorie-controlled diet, dark chocolate can have a role to play in reducing obesity  and helping to maintain a healthy body weight by curbing cravings and making people less likely to overeat.

10. Improve Gut Health

Dark chocolate is actually a prebiotic: a food source for the helpful bacteria in the gut that assist with digesting the food that we eat.  

Eating dark chocolate can improve the gut microbiome (the collection of living organisms in our digestive system), enhancing digestion and overall health, including mental health.

Incorporating Dark Chocolate Into Your Diet

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of eating dark chocolate every day, I’ll let you know my top tips for how to include it in a healthy way.

What To Eat With Dark Chocolate

Since dark chocolate provides most of its calories from fat, pair it with a healthful source of carbohydrates such as fruit or vegetables and a lean source of protein (think low-fat dairy or even lean meat) to provide an overall balanced dish.

When To Eat Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate doesn’t have to mean dessert: there are great ways to add dark chocolate or cocoa to any meal or snack.  

One caution, though: because dark chocolate is high in fat and fiber, it is slow-digesting, which means that it’s not a great choice when you are looking for a quick source of energy before or after a workout.

How Much Dark Chocolate to Eat

Like most good things in life, moderation is key.  Dark chocolate is very calorie dense, so stick with a serving size of no more than 30 grams in total each day.

“Although chocolate, especially dark, contains a plethora of nutrients, it’s high in calories.  If clients want to include chocolate in their diet, they should choose at least 60% to 70% dark chocolate and consume 1 oz maximum per day to help keep calories and saturated fat in check.”

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Meal Ideas:

  • At breakfast: finely chop 1-2 squares of dark chocolate and sprinkle it on your oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit.  Or, get raw cacao nibs and use them in the same way, or blend into a cacao protein smoothie.  My final suggestion is to make a mocha: add 1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder to your cup of coffee to add a subtle chocolate flavor.
  • For dessert: there is no shortage of recipes for chocolate cakes, cookies and brownies, but this is the first time I had ever seen a chocolate soup. Why not get creative with your chocolate?


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About The Author

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing. 

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