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Dark Chocolate: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Chocolates are the most commonly available food item; everyone likes them and desires to eat them. It is hard to find a single person who does not like chocolates. Dark chocolates are semisweet, with extra dark having a sweet and bitter taste. It is prepared from cocoa seeds. It is also called black chocolate and is prepared by adding fat and sugar to the roasted and ground cocoa with less milk. It has the highest percentage of cocoa, about 70% to 99%. Chocolate originated in Mexico. Where the Mayans and Aztecs cultivated the cacao tree, which is native to the American tropical rainforest. Due to its health benefits, chocolate drinks were considered “the drink of Gods.” The scientific name of the cocoa tree is Theobroma cacao.​1–3​ Let us discuss the health benefits of dark chocolate, its nutritional value, potential uses and many more.  

dark chocolate benefits

Nutritional Value of Dark Chocolate: 

One hundred grams of dark chocolate may have 598 kcal energy.​4  The nutrients of dark chocolate include: 

Nutrients Value/100 g 
Carbohydrate 45.9g 
Protein 7.79g 
Fibre 10.9g 
Fat 42.6g 
Sugar 24g 
Potassium 715mg 
Calcium 73mg 
Sodium 20mg 
Magnesium 228mg 
Manganese 1.95mg 
Phosphorus  308mg 
Iron 11.9mg 
Zinc 3.31mg 
Copper 1.77mg 
Selenium 6.8µg 
Caffeine 80mg 
Vitamin A 2µg 
Vitamin K 7.3µg 
Vitamin E 0.59mg 
Vitamin B12 0.28µg 
Vitamin B6  0.038mg 
Vitamin B5  0.418mg 
Vitamin B3 1.05mg 
Vitamin B2 0.078mg 
Vitamin B1 0.034mg 

Table 1: Nutritional value of Dark Chocolate per 100 grams.4 

Furthermore, other biologically active compounds like theobromine, phenylethylamine, N-acylethanolamines, tyramine, epicatechin, catechin, procyanidins, alkaloids, polyphenols, and theophylline may be present in it.1,2 

Properties of Dark Chocolate: 

When it comes to dark chocolate, remember that a little goes a long way. While it offers enticing flavours and potential health benefits, it’s important to be mindful of its calorie content. Dark chocolate can be quite calorie-dense, with around 150-170 calories per ounce.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Did you know ?

  • Dark chocolate consumption does not improve endothelial function or insulin sensitivity in hypertensive individuals. source: Ncbi
  • Dark chocolate consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality. source: cancer.org
  • Dark chocolate contains polyphenols that can help prevent tooth decay. source: ncbi
  • Dark chocolate has antibacterial properties that can reduce plaque formation. source: ncbi
  • Dark chocolate can increase the production of nitric oxide, which helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.Source:cdc.gov

The benefits of eating dark chocolate may include the following properties: 

  • It may act as antioxidants  
  • It may reduce high blood pressure 
  • It may have anti-inflammatory effects 
  • It may reduce bad cholesterol  
  • It may reduce heart disease 
  • It may enhance brain functions 
  • It may act as an anti-cancer agent.​1,2​ 

Potential Uses of Dark Chocolate: 

When it comes to chocolate, opt for the dark side! Dark chocolate contains significantly higher amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa solids compared to milk chocolate, packing a powerful punch of health benefits. These flavanols work their magic by supporting the production of nitric oxide in the inner lining of our blood vessels, called the endothelium.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Dark chocolate may be ideal for enhancing human health.2 The following may be the potential uses of eating dark chocolate: 

1. Potential uses of dark chocolate for cancer 

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants like flavonoids and cocoa-derived pentameric procyanidin, which might act against free radicals. These free radicals cause oxidative cell damage and may also lead to cancer. A study by Keen CL et al., 2005 suggested that eating dark chocolate may help defend the body from various types of cancer and slow down the signs of ageing.2 However, new studies are needed to suggest the potential uses of dark chocolate for fighting cancer. Cancer is a serious health condition. Therefore, proper diagnosis and treatment are needed and do not self-medicate. 

2. Potential uses of dark chocolate for oral health 

Here’s a delightful secret to safeguarding your skin from the sun’s harmful rays: dark chocolate! The antioxidants found in dark chocolate, known as flavonols, come to the rescue by boosting blood flow to your skin and acting as a protective shield against damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

Dark chocolate has a theobromine compound, which might help harden the tooth enamel. It may help maintain proper dental hygiene and lower the risk of dental cavities. In addition, theobromine may suppress the function of the vagus nerve (a nerve that causes coughing) and may help reduce coughs.1,2 However, if you have oral health issues, visit your dentist, and get a proper check-up. 

3. Potential uses of dark chocolate for diabetes 

Dark chocolate contains magnesium and flavonoids that may potentially function against Type-2 diabetes. A study by Grassi D et al., 2005, suggests that it contains flavonoids which may help reduce insulin resistance. Flavonoids may help the cells to work normally and restore the ability to use the body’s insulin. Dark chocolate may also have a low glycaemic index and may not cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.2 However, more human studies are required to suggest that dark chocolate act against diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease, and it is essential to have a doctor’s consultation.  

4. Potential uses of dark chocolate for blood pressure 

Dark chocolate may have an antioxidant capacity. Additionally, it contains an epicatechin compound, which may help lower blood pressure and enhance endothelial functions. A study by Lakshmana Rao et al., 2014, suggested that epicatechin may reduce high blood pressure and end-organ damage in animal models. Furthermore, dark chocolate also contains flavanol, which might release nitric oxide and plays a key role in high blood pressure.1 However, more human research is needed to suggest the use of dark chocolate against high blood pressure. Therefore, take the doctor’s advice and do not use dark chocolate to self-medicate. 

5. Potential uses of dark chocolate for heart 

Regular consumption of dark chocolates might reduce inflammation by reducing the levels of C-reactive protein in the body. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory action of dark chocolates is due to the antioxidants and flavonoids in them.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, MD

The advantages of dark chocolate may be associated with reducing heart disorders. It contains minerals such as copper and potassium, which may help against stroke. Dark chocolate also has flavanols that may reduce the chances of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). Additionally, it may help the flexibility of arteries and reduce the white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels.2 However, there is a requirement for further studies to conclude the use of dark chocolate for heart diseases. If you have any issues related to the heart, consult your doctor and do not self-medicate. 

6. Potential uses of dark chocolate for brain  

Various data analyses have reported that eating dark chocolate may benefit blood flow to the brain and heart, enhancing cognitive (brain) functions. In addition, its chemical components, which have stimulant activity, may positively affect our mood and brain health. For example, dark chocolate may contain phenylethylamine, which may help release endorphins and increase alertness. It also contains caffeine, a mild stimulant, and may help with mood disorders.1,2 We need more research to develop its uses for human health. Suppose you have any problems related to the brain; consult your doctor and do not self-medicate. 

7. Other Potential Uses of Dark Chocolate 

When it comes to dark chocolate, aim for a minimum of 70% cocoa content or higher to maximize your intake of beneficial flavanols. These flavanols are key players in providing potential health advantages. However, do keep in mind that as the cocoa percentage increases, the flavour tends to become more bitter.

Dr. Ashok Pal, BAMS
  • Dark chocolate has a high amount of iron which might help against iron deficiency.1 
  • Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that may show anti-inflammatory activities and help decrease inflammation.2 
  • Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which might help reduce age-related memory loss.3 

Though studies show the potential uses of dark chocolate in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a necessity for further studies to develop the scope of the benefits of dark chocolate on human health.  

How to Use Dark Chocolate?  

Dark chocolate is in the form of liquid, paste, or block.1,2 You may use dark chocolate as 

  • Flavouring ingredient 
  • Sweeteners 
  • Thickener 
  • To bake chocolate bars 
  • To make solid confectionery.1,2 

You should consult a qualified doctor before eating dark chocolate in large quantities. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing modern medical treatment with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation of dark chocolate without consulting an ayurvedic physician. They will guide you with its form and dosage per your health condition. 

Side Effects of Dark Chocolate: 

Though there are many advantages of dark chocolate. It may also cause caffeine-related side effects. However, below are a few dark chocolate side effects: 

  • Sleeplessness 
  • Nervousness 
  • Increased urination 
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Skin allergies 
  • Constipation 
  • Migraine or headache 
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach rumbling 
  • Intestinal discomfort. 3​ 

You must consult your doctors to get the proper treatment if you encounter such side effects. 

Precautions to Take with Dark Chocolate: 

Eating dark chocolate in small quantities might be safe. However, eating in larger amounts may harm. Therefore, a few precautions are necessary:  

  • If you have headaches, avoid dark chocolate. It may trigger migraines in sensitive people.3 
  • The diabetic patient should avoid dark chocolate as it may raise sugar levels in the blood and interfere with blood sugar control.3 
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid dark chocolate as it contains caffeine and may interfere with growth.3 
  • If you have an anxiety disorder, avoid eating dark chocolate; it may worsen your condition.3 
  • If you have stomach discomfort, acid reflux, or irritable bowel syndrome, avoid having dark chocolate.3 
  • People must be cautious while giving dark chocolate to small children and the elderly as they might develop chocolate allergies.3 

Also Read: Tyramine Rich Foods: Understanding the Impact on Your Health

Interactions with Other Drugs:  

It may interfere with certain drugs/medicines, leading to drug interaction.​3​ 

  • Do not use dark chocolate with aspirin. 
  • Do not eat dark chocolate and anticoagulant drugs (blood thinning medicine). 
  • Do not have dark chocolate with antiplatelet drugs (prevent blood clots). 
  • Do not take dark chocolate with NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).​3​ 

Therefore, you should avoid eating dark chocolate with any medicine and if any complications arise, consult with doctors.  

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What is dark chocolate? 

Dark chocolate is a sweet, extra-dark food item with a bittersweet taste. Dark chocolate is made from Theobroma cacao seeds by adding cocoa butter (fat) and sugar to the roasted and ground cocoa with less or no milk. 1,2  

What are the disadvantages of dark chocolate for pregnant women? 

Dark chocolate contains caffeine which may affect pregnant women and the baby in the womb. Therefore, pregnant women are not recommended to have dark chocolate.3 

What are the side effects of eating dark chocolate? 

The dark chocolate side effects may be associated with caffeine. It may cause sleeplessness, nervousness, increased urination, fast heartbeat, skin allergies, migraine and headache, nausea, and stomach problems like gas and constipation.3 

What are the vitamins of dark chocolate? 

Dark chocolate vitamins may include vitamins like A, K, E, B12, B6, B5, B3, B2 and B1.4 

What is the percentage of cocoa present in dark chocolate? 

Dark chocolate contains around 70-99% pure cocoa solids, butter, and sugar.1 

References:  

​​1. Haritha K, Kalyani L, Rao A. Review Article Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate. Journal of Advanced Drug Delivery 2. 2014;1(4):184–95. Available from: http://www.jadd.in/Content/Paper/201911029321000011201911029321000001.pdf 

​ 

​2. Patel N, Jayswal S, Maitreya B, Nirali Patel. Dark chocolate: Consumption for human health. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 2019;8(3):2887–90. Available from: https://www.phytojournal.com/archives/2019/vol8issue3/PartAO/8-2-565-157.pdf 

​ 

​3. Arakelyan H. Chocolate and Drugs Dangerous Interactions [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2022 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275584061_Chocolate_and_Drugs_Dangerous_Interactions 

​ 

​4. FoodData Central | Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids [Internet]. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. 2019 [cited 2022 Nov 26]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170273/nutrients 

​ ​ 

​ Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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