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We all know that chocolate is delicious, and many of us enjoy a nice, rich piece of dark chocolate as a special treat. Some people might even pair a brick of dark chocolate with a glass of red wine for a boost of antioxidants and other health benefits. Antioxidants are extremely beneficial to overall health and wellness.
It’s also common knowledge that dark chocolate can have some health benefits. According to WebMD, “Dark chocolate is a rich source of fiber, loaded with iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and other minerals. … cocoa’s flavanols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and free-radical scavenging properties … Separate studies have shown that dark chocolate…could guard against cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate offers anti-inflammatory effects as well as antithrombotic ones, which can help prevent blood clots, and antihypertensive properties, which can help lower blood pressure.”
With all those big benefits, dark chocolate is starting to sound like a health food! It’s a good source of iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and flavanols that can help protect the heart. But did you know that dark chocolate is not only good for your physical health, it might boost your physical appearance, too?
It’s possible that dark chocolate not only has the power to make you happier and healthier, but also might be able to make you more beautiful, too. In this article, we’ll explore what dark chocolate can do for your skin, hair, and beyond.
The human history of eating chocolate
Before we dive in, it’s important to take a quick look at the history of dark chocolate in human society and also define exactly what counts as dark chocolate (and what doesn’t). If you’re eating a Hershey bar thinking you’re doing your body some favors, you’ve misunderstood or been misled. The last thing you should assume is that just because dark chocolate may have some health benefits in certain contexts, all chocolate is automatically good for you.
The History Channel reports, “The history of chocolate can be traced to the ancient Mayans, and even earlier to the ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico. The word chocolate may conjure up images of sweet candy bars and luscious truffles, but the chocolate of today is little like the chocolate of the past. Throughout much of history, chocolate was a revered but bitter beverage, not a sweet, edible treat.”
That’s because chocolate “is made from the fruit of cacao trees, which are native to Central and South America.” These fruits, also called pods, each contain around 40 cacao beans, which are then dried and roasted to create cocoa beans, and that’s where chocolate comes from.
It’s not until you add the other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, and butter, that the roasted bean evolves into the sweet candy treat we all know and love today. That’s why not all chocolate is good for you. Some has been overly processed with so much sugar added that the health benefits of eating it are minimal.
Read more on our blog titled The History of Chocolate as A Health Food.
What exactly is dark chocolate?
It’s also important to note that not all chocolate is dark chocolate. To qualify as dark chocolate, the substance must contain at least 50% cocoa solids and can only contain trace amounts of milk (otherwise it’s considered milk chocolate).
As Harvard defines it, “Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.”
Keep in mind that dark chocolate contains up to three times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate, and white chocolate really has no health benefits whatsoever.
In other words, the darker the chocolate, the more you’re getting of those beneficial cocoa solids… but also the more bitter (and less like candy) the chocolate bar becomes. If you truly want to eat dark chocolate for its health and beauty benefits, you’re going to have to eat pretty dark, and if you’ve never tried it before, you’ll quickly learn that a bar of 90% dark chocolate is not nearly as indulgent as a bar of 50% dark chocolate (though it’s much better for you!).
Beauty benefits of dark chocolate
The simple truth is that dark chocolate might not only have physical health benefits, but may help to unleash your inner beauty, too.
An article in Cosmopolitan reports, “Cocoa is a source of manganese which helps nutrient absorption (and sex hormone production, bonus!). Not only that, but by reducing our stress hormones, chocolate gives you a happy high AND prevents the breakdown of collagen - the wrinkle-busting protein that keeps skin plump and youthful.”
The article also explains that chocolate nourishes your skin from the inside out to replace lost moisture because it’s “rich in vitamins A, B1, C, D and E, plus iron and calcium.” In addition, it “prevents aging; defending damage by protecting from harmful UV rays thanks to its antioxidant flavonoids.”
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Dark chocolate can protect and boost the appearance of skin
If you could imagine a food that not only tastes delicious but also helps out your skin and hair health, that would sound like a marvelous food, but if you said this food could also be considered a decadent treat, it would sound too good to be true. But that’s exactly the case when it comes to dark chocolate.
Many people like to start their day with a cup of coffee and end it with a piece of dark chocolate. And while both of these foods have their drawbacks, in moderation they may actually be doing you some favors. They’re both rich in antioxidants and other minerals. Did you know that coffee is actually beneficial to your bone health?
But dark chocolate is the real winner here. According to the India Times, “the flavonoids present in the content of dark chocolate can benefit your skin in a variety of ways, such as improving blood flow to the skin, increasing skin density allowing for better skin hydration, and yes, even protecting your skin against damage from the sun.”
Yes, that’s right… dark chocolate might help guard against your next sunburn! Of course, you should always wear a protective layer of sunscreen before exposing your skin to the sun’s powerful rays, but boosting your skin health with some dark chocolate might help, too.
The Times continues, “This is believed to be because the compounds found within dark chocolate increase the threshold for your minimal erythemal dose, or MED, which is the minimal amount of UVB rays that are required to cause your skin to turn red 24 hours after exposure.”
An article in HuffPost reports that dark chocolate also helps to repair dry skin. “Iron, calcium and vitamins A, B1, C, D and E are among the many nutrients that we can obtain from dark chocolate. Swap out that extra cup of coffee or green tea for a cocoa-rich drink that will deeply moisturize skin and leave behind a healthy glow.”
The article also backs up the claim that dark chocolate can help protect your skin from the sun, reporting, “Flavonols found in dark chocolate have been clinically shown to help your skin protect itself from sunburn, redness and other signs of UV damage.” Next time you plan a beach vacation, make sure to pack a bar of dark chocolate to snack on, too!
You can also make a DIY body scrub out of dark chocolate to get rid of dead skin cells and reveal a revitalized, luminous, and healthy glow. Still, one of the major benefits of dark chocolate is its power to make us happier and reduce our stress levels. For some of us, treating ourselves to a piece of dark chocolate is a welcome release of tension at the end of a long day.
But studies show that it’s not necessarily all in your head: according to HuffPost, dark chocolate can help eliminate wrinkles and fine lines. “Things seem a bit calmer right after we nibble on a piece of dark chocolate, and we all know how stress impacts our skin. … Cocoa helps reduce stress hormones, which means less collagen breakdown in the skin and fewer wrinkles.”
Do your skin a favor and add a bit of dark chocolate to your routine (in moderation, of course).
Dark chocolate could give you lustrous locks of hair
There are also reports that dark chocolate might help protect against frequent hair loss.
According to HuffPost, dark chocolate promotes hair growth. “Copper, zinc, and iron are minerals that promote the cell renewal growth process, and dark chocolate happens to be full of them. So eating chocolate every day will increase oxygen and blood flow to the scalp and lead to healthier and strong hair.”
You can also make a homemade hair mask that contains dark chocolate to give your hair added strength, hydration, and shine. Make this a regular part of your beauty routine and see how much your hair likes being treated to dark chocolate.
Did you know that dark chocolate might also help guard against infection? Femina reports, “Eating dark chocolate reduces inflammation and keeps scalp infections and other chronic diseases at bay. Better scalp health automatically translates to healthier hair.”
If eating dark chocolate can lead to healthy hair growth, nourished and glowing skin, inner physical health benefits, and greater happiness, it’s no wonder we appear more beautiful by treating ourselves to healthy amounts of dark chocolate!
An additional benefit of dark chocolate is that it actually helps elevate your mood, increasing your feelings of attraction. This is due to the presence of a substance called phenylethylamine which is sometimes nicknamed “chocolate amphetamine.” Chocolate has the highest concentration of phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine is a chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love which explains why chocolate is a popular Valentine’s day gift.
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