4 reasons why dark chocolate is an important, nay essential, part of your diet (in moderation)
As a clapham personal trainer, our mission is to serve our clients with the best combination of innovative training and effective nutrition coaching.
On our Fit Lean program, we educate our clients to empower them to make healthy choices. Part of this process involves explaining some of the benefits of foods that are often presumed to be ‘bad’…without further ado, here’s our take on dark chocolate.
Think of dark chocolate and you think of that sinful indulgence that you have in a dark alley, far away from your local gym…and you never admit to your trainer that you have it. Ever.
Here are four reasons why dark chocolate is an important, nay essential, part of your diet (in moderation).
1. It contains antioxidants
Dark chocolate contains a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, which can also be found in green tea, red wine, and various fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are important because they help defend the body from free radicals, which are the by-product of chemical reactions occurring within the body. According to scientists, damage from free radicals contributes to aging, brain dysfunction, inflammation and chronic diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis.
If, by following a dosage of 1 ounce (2 squares) of dark chocolate per day you can help protect yourself from the list of ailments mentioned above, count me in.
2. It improves circulation
According to a study conducted by the Department of Cardiopneumology at the Superior College of Health Technology in Portugal, healthy young adults (average age 20) who ate 1 square of 70% cocoa dark chocolate every day for a month increased their arterial flow from 14% to 23%.
According to the results of another small study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, patients suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) walked 11% further on a treadmill after consuming dark chocolate than their counterparts in the study who consumed milk chocolate.
It is important to note, however, that the impact of dark chocolate alone on circulation compared to the impact of supervised exercise cannot be compared (an 11% increase in chocolate consumption compared to a 100% increase resulting from supervised exercise, according to Dr. Mark Creagher of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in response to the PAD study).
The point is that a measured improvement in circulation can be made through a medium that is enjoyed by most. Not everyone likes exercise, but I’ve met very few who don’t like dark chocolate.
3. It fills you up
In a University of Copenhagen study, 16 healthy males were given equal quantities of dark and milk chocolate, and then asked to monitor their hunger over a subsequent 5-hour period.
2.5 hours after the chocolate consumption, the subjects were fed pizza, with the instruction to eat until they felt comfortably satiated (full). Those consuming dark chocolate felt more full and consumed 15% less calories before they felt comfortably full from eating.
A possible reason for this is the massive amount of fibre in dark chocolate, which increases the feeling of satiety and slows down the digestive process. A 100g bar of dark chocolate contains 11g of fibre (or 3g per 1oz serving), compared to 1.9g of fibre for a 3oz serving of whole grain bread.
4. It helps decrease cravings
From the same study, it was also concluded that the consumption of dark chocolate decreased additional cravings for sweet, fatty or salty foods.
This may be due to the higher presence of cocoa in dark chocolate. Cocoa elevates the production of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are vital when it comes to dealing with cravings. When these levels are low, we are more inclined to not only crave sweet, salty and fatty foods, but we also sleep poorly.
This in turn results in a vicious cycle, as poor sleep quality results in poor recovery, meaning that the levels of these important neurotransmitters remain low, and the cycle continues.
By consuming a small quantity (1-2 squares daily), you can augment your diet with a myriad of health benefits including protection against free radical damage, improved circulation, dietary satiety (staying full from eating), as well as craving control.
We are big fans of dark chocolate here at Fit to Last, and we hope we’ve convinced you to be as well.
To learn more about healthy eating habits to achieve your fitness goals, contact James Staring, a leading personal trainer in Clapham, London.
ABOUT JAMES STARING
James Staring is a personal trainer based in Clapham, London. His methods have featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Hello, Healthy, Daily Mail, Closer, and many more. After giving up smoking and entering the fitness industry in 2009, James has focused on his passion to help others transform their health and fitness. However, James is convinced that most people struggle so much more than they need to in an effort to improve their fitness. Through his company, Fit to Last, which he runs with his partner, Ali Page – James has helped hundreds of men and women make small adjustments in their daily habits to transform their fitness and to love how they look and feel.
- ‘Healing Foods Pyramid’: Integrative Medicine Online, Nutrition Education Team at the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in 2005 and updated in 2009
- “Dark Chocolate Is More Filling Than Milk Chocolate And Lessens Cravings.”: : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210091039.htm: ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 2008
- Aubrey, A: ‘How Dark Chocolate, Not Milk Chocolate, May Help Blood Flow’: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/07/02/327775106/how-dark-chocolate-not-milk-chocolate-may-help-blood-flow: the salt, what’s on your plate online, 2 July 2014
- Harmon-Courage, K: ‘Why Is Dark Chocolate Good For You? Thank Your Microbe’s: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-dark-chocolate-good-for-you-thank-your-microbes/: Scientific American Online, 19 March 2014
- Park, J: ‘Eat Dark Chocolate, Stop Your Craving’s: http://www.healthydiscoveries.com/2012/03/eat-dark-chocolate-stop-your-cravings/: Healthy Discoveries Online, 28 March 2012
- Bedwell, S: ‘Dark Chocolate Contains A Shocking Amount Of…’: Self Online: http://www.self.com/story/dark-chocolate-contains-fiber
 By ‘dark’ chocolate we mean at least 70% cocoa solids (the higher % of cocoa the better
 ‘Healing Foods Pyramid Glossary’:
 Aubrey, A: How Dark Chocolate, Not Milk Chocolate, May Help Blood Flow: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/07/02/327775106/how-dark-chocolate-not-milk-chocolate-may-help-blood-flow: the salt, what’s on your plate online, 2 July 2014
 “Dark Chocolate Is More Filling Than Milk Chocolate And Lessens Cravings.”: : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210091039.htm: ScienceDaily. 23 December 2008
 Bedwell, S: ‘Dark Chocolate Contains A Shocking Amount Of…’: Self Online: http://www.self.com/story/dark-chocolate-contains-fiber
 Park, J: Eat Dark Chocolate, Stop Your Cravings: http://www.healthydiscoveries.com/2012/03/eat-dark-chocolate-stop-your-cravings/: Healthy Discoveries Online, 28 March 2012