Dark Chocolate is Healthy..? Don’t Believe the Hype

OK, I admit it:

I’ve been eating dark chocolate pretty much everyday for almost 10 years.

Not because of some perceived health benefits or anything like that, I just love eating the stuff.

Like when I was on vacation recently, I ordered a dessert from the kids’ menu.

I mean, how could I resist this?

Chocolate brownie

So, I’ve got a real weakness for dark chocolate.

Hell, I even ate it everyday while dropping 61 lbs in 27 weeks.

But that still doesn’t make it “healthy”.

Even though a quick Google search for “dark chocolate health benefits” comes up with results like this:

Is dark chocolate really a superfood?

I mean, just check out The Telegraph telling us to “eat more of it”.

So, what gives?

Wow! Dark Chocolate Contains THAT?!!

Now, dark chocolate does contain a ton of things that are essential for health.

From minerals like iron and copper, to antioxidants like procyanidins and flavanoids (with epicatechin often being singled out as a superhero).

So, it’s dark chocolate for the win, right?

But here’s something to keep in mind:

While all those things are essential for health, they’re not unique to dark chocolate.

If they were, humans couldn’t have survived outside of the tropics – the only region of the planet where cacao grows.

Fortunately, they can all be found in foods that contain way fewer calories and are nowhere near as easy to overconsume as dark chocolate.

Bottom line?

Dark chocolate contains essential nutrients…

…just like every other food does

And while it’s essential that we consume those nutrients, it’s not essential that we consume them through chocolate.

But What About Dark Chocolate’s Awesome Health Benefits?

OK, some studies show that dark chocolate may contribute to a reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Which is pretty awesome news, right?

Even better, other studies show that dark chocolate can also lead to a reduction in blood pressure.

So, it looks like dark chocolate really does help to protect cardiovascular health.

Perhaps it is a superfood after all…

But before we crack a bar of 75% Peruvian to celebrate, here’s the deal:

Just because a result is statistically significant doesn’t mean it has any practical significance out in the real world.

Because in reality, those improvements to blood pressure, LDL-c and HDL-c were fricking minuscule.

Which means all those theoretical advantages of eating dark chocolate everyday will simply get lost in the background noise of the real world.

Bodyweight, exercise habits, lifestyle, food choices and genetics all play a MUCH bigger part.

Put it this way:

I’d be amazed if anyone has ever avoided hospitalisation, heart attack or death just because they ate dark chocolate everyday.

Or, if someone’s hospitalisation, heart attack or death could have been avoided if only they’d eaten more dark chocolate.

That’s only common sense, right?

Dark Chocolate: Healthy or Unhealthy?

I know it doesn’t make a nice, click-bait headline but claiming that “dark chocolate is healthy” without mentioning the amount being eaten or the context in which it’s being consumed is just plain crazy.

Look, water is essential for life but drinking just 3 gallons in a day is enough to kill most people.

So, the dark chocolate you consume while staying lean and enjoying some (very) mild health benefits is the same dark chocolate that could be contributing to obesity, with all the bad things that come along with that.

And let’s be honest:

Nobody eats dark chocolate because of its perceived health benefits, the same way nobody drinks red wine for the antioxidants.

They don’t eat it to lower “bad” cholesterol or make sure they’re getting in sufficient fiber.

They eat it because it tastes incredible.

Saturdays Chocolate Sapporo

And all those irresponsible articles out there claiming that dark chocolate is some kind of superfood really achieve one thing:

They make us feel a little better about polishing off the whole bar rather than eating just a few squares.

Well, that’s the kind of message we can all do without.

So, here’s the bottom line:

If you like eating dark chocolate everyday and you can keep your intake under control – keep on munching.

As long as you’re hitting your daily caloric and protein targets, you can be as lean as you want while enjoying it.

But if you have problems with moderation, sticking to just a few squares of chocolate can be damn-near impossible.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

And there really is only one possible answer to the question “is dark chocolate healthy?”

It depends.

– Tim

Images: Bigstock

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