Image by Alexander Stein from Pixabay

It’s just one of those universals — nearly everybody loves chocolate. (If you don’t, you’re weird.) And best of all, unlike some of our acquired tastes in the modern Westernized world for things highly processed and full of fake chemicals, theobroma cacao, the plant that gives us cocoa beans, was God’s idea. And, like nearly every plant in its original, unprocessed form, that means it’s chock-full of medicinal compounds.

Here are a few of them. 

High Antioxidant Content in Chocolate Modulates Inflammation

Just about every plant in its original, unprocessed form does two things very well: mitigates oxidative stress, and in so doing, it also decreases chronic inflammation. 

Chocolate is no exception. It’s higher in antioxidants than most foods, even red wine. Because of this, it’s been studied and shown to be useful for chronic diseases mediated by oxidative stress, including heart disease and cancer.

 Because of the antioxidant properties, it’s even been suggested that chocolate triggers the body to kill abnormal cells that might lead to cancer. 

Insulin Resistance and Chocolate

Perhaps surprisingly, chocolate (in its original state, anyway) has been associated with lowering blood sugar levels. 

This may also because of the high antioxidant content and its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that this is due to a different mechanism entirely: specifically, that chocolate helps to directly move glucose into skeletal muscles to be used for energy. 

Regardless of the mechanism(s), chocolate has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, and thus help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Cognitive Improvements with Chocolate

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cognitive decline are also associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, so it’s no surprise that chocolate has been found to be beneficial for these conditions as well. 

It’s likely that part of the mechanism for this also involves increased blood flow to the brain. More blood flow means more oxygen, which is the other side of ATP production, besides glucose utilization. 

Chocolate also encourages angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), neurogenesis (formation of new neurons), and it specifically beefs up the areas of the brain involved in learning and memory. 

The Upshot

Many of the plant’s original medicinal compounds get lost in the process of converting cocoa beans to chocolate. Even despite this, cocoa powder still has more antioxidants than many other foods. Still, you’ll get an even more beneficial superfood if you’re making your own chocolate recipes, and choose raw cacao powder instead of cocoa powder. (Trader Joe’s has the best price I’ve found anywhere on raw cacao powder — just saying!)

Of course, if you choose very high sugar sources of chocolate, you’re also going to greatly diminish the benefits, if not negate them altogether. So choose dark chocolate, the higher the percentage the better, which always means the sugar content is lower too. This is because if a greater percentage of the recipe is raw cacao, there’s less space left over for anything else. Even better, if you’re making the recipe yourself, choose healthier alternative sweeteners instead.  

You can find some of my favorite healthy chocolate recipes as well as a quick video recap of chocolate’s health benefits here!