Not everything that’s good for you has to be dull. And luckily, delicious dark chocolate packs a significant health punch. Full of iron, fibre, magnesium and antioxidants, there’s every excuse to keep a bar in your bag
The science bit
A square of dark chocolate every day can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by a significant 39 per cent, according to a long-term German study. Researchers think this is due to flavonoids – antioxidant compounds that keep arteries healthy. A bar of the sweet stuff contains five times the flavonoids of an apple (but a lot more fat and sugar too).
A study from the University of L’Aquila in Italy also found that participants who ate a small bar of dark chocolate daily for two weeks had their insulin-resistance potential halved, which, ironically, could mean certain chocolate compounds actually fight diabetes. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Dark chocolate may even cut cravings for salty, fatty foods, says a University of Copenhagen study. Over 70 per cent cocoa content offers a sense of greater satiety than the equivalent amount of milk chocolate, so it’s easier to eat less and still reap health benefits.
It can also boost brainpower. The University of Nottingham found cocoa improves blood flow to the brain and increases alertness.
Chocolate is good for ageing too. Oxford University discovered over-70s who scoffed dark chocolate scored higher on cognitive function tests than those who didn’t.
Max the benefits
Got a cough? According to London’s National Heart and Lung Institute, dark chocolate can be as effective as codeine at calming the tickle, thanks to the theobromine it contains. Plus it tastes a lot better.