Despite the wealth of positive media coverage dark chocolate has received for its myriad of health benefits, an article in “USA Today” states more research is needed before you start overindulging on this treat. Chocolate contains large amounts of butter, sugar and cream, which can break your diet. If you rely on the occasional piece of chocolate to alleviate stress or satisfy a craving, that’s fine, but consuming too much can have adverse health effects.
Weight Gain and Heart Disease
One bar of milk chocolate that has 1.55 ounces or 44 grams, contains 235 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 of which come from saturated fat, and 221 grams of sugar. One ounce of dark chocolate, or 28.35 grams, contains 156 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 from saturated fat, and 13 grams of sugar. Saturated fat elevates blood cholesterol, which puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. The added sugar in chocolate has no nutritional value, which can cause weight gain and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. If you’re going to indulge in chocolate, Alice Lichtenstein, a professor at Tufts University recommends that you cut out other treats on that day or that you walk an additional 30 minutes to counteract the additional calories you’re getting.
Diabetes and Cavities
One milk chocolate bar has 26 grams of carbohydrates and 1 ounce of dark chocolate has 17 grams, most of which is from sugars or refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates can cause spikes in your blood sugar, which can make your body resistant to insulin over time and may lead to Type 2 diabetes. The excess sugar may also send you to the dentist more often than you’d like with tooth decay and cavities.
Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition in which the stomach contents come back up into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn. Chocolate causes your lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which enables the stomach contents to travel back upward, giving you that burning sensation behind your chest. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends that you avoid chocolate to help control GERD.
Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, which is a why a piece of chocolate may perk you up when the workday starts to drag, but caffeine has no nutritional value. If you eat too many caffeine-containing foods such as chocolate, you may experience rapid heartbeat, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sleep problems, tremors, nausea and vomiting, according to Medline Plus. Dark chocolate contains more caffeine than milk chocolate, and both contain theobromine, which is a substance closely related to caffeine.
- USA Today: Dark Chocolate: A Bittersweet Pill to Take
- USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report: 19120, Candies, Milk Chocolate
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report: 19905, Candies, Chocolate, Dark, NSF
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats
- American Heart Association: Sugars and Carbohydrates
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gastroesophageal Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Adults
- Stanford News: Chocolate, Wine and Spicy Foods May Be OK for Heartburn
- Medline Plus: Caffeine in the Diet
- The Hershey Company: Caffeine and Theobromine