If you're a dark chocolate lover, perhaps you're addicted to the sweet treat's nutritional benefits. Eating dark chocolate provides you with energy, fat, minerals and antioxidants to help maintain your overall health. These benefits come from the cocoa beans, which are roasted, ground and mixed with cocoa butter and sugar to form a chocolate bar. Check out the percentage of cocoa that your chosen chocolate contains; it's listed on the wrapper. Keep in mind that the higher the number, the darker the chocolate.
Macronutrients in Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is an energy-rich food that provides about 170 calories per ounce. You'll also get varying amounts of sugar and fat from dark chocolate, depending on the amount of sweetener and fat used to make the chocolate. Typically, 1 ounce contains about 12 grams of total fat, 7 grams of saturated fat and 24 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. Because it's such a rich source of calories, fat and sugar, you should eat chocolate in moderation, particularly if you're trying to lose or maintain your weight or have diabetes.
Provides Essential Minerals
Eating dark chocolate provides you with a variety of minerals including iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. One ounce of dark chocolate contains 3 milligrams of iron. Women under the age of 50 need about 18 milligrams grams of iron daily, while men and women over age 50 need about 8 milligrams per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Copper works with iron to help form healthy red blood cells. It's also essential for proper functioning of your immune system and nerves. Manganese is a mineral needed in only trace amounts, but it's used to form bones, connective tissues, blood clotting factors and hormones, metabolize nutrients, regulate blood sugar and calcium absorption and maintain normal nerve and brain function. Magnesium is needed to maintain healthy bones -- and plays a part in about 300 different chemical reactions in your body.
Dark chocolate also gives you a variety of antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Antioxidants help prevent damage in your body caused by oxidative stress and harmful free radicals. According to an article published in the January 2005 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," consuming polyphenols may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, such heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. The antioxidants found in chocolate may also help improve your overall immune function to prevent other types of illness and disease as well, according to a February 2007 article in the journal "Experimental Biology and Medicine."
Caffeine and Theobromine
If you crave dark chocolate, you may be craving two stimulant compounds in the chocolate. Both caffeine and theobromine in chocolate excite or stimulate your central nervous system, helping to temporarily reduce drowsiness or fatigue. They may also relax certain smooth muscles, such as those in the throat and lungs, helping to relieve cough and open restricted airways, according to a study published in the February 2005 issue of "The FASEB Journal." However, if you consume these compounds in excess they may cause headaches, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and nausea.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Chocolate, Dark, 70-85% Cocoa Solids
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Manganese
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Ameican Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Polyphenols: Antioxidants and Beyond
- Experimental Biology and Medicine: Immune Effects of Cocoa Procyanidin Oligomers on Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine in the Diet
- The FASEB Journal: Theobromine Inhibits Sensory Nerve Activation and Cough
- University of Michigan Health System: Dark Chocolate
- MedlinePlus: Copper in Diet
- MedlinePlus: Magnesium