Scientific research into chocolate is turning up some intriguing possibilities about its healthful nutrients, including improved immunity, greater longevity, and quicker recovery from intense exercise. Dark chocolate without unhealthy additives and sugar has been shown to lower the risk of cancer and stroke, and lowers blood pressure as effectively as antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables.

What Is It Good For?

Heart health

Moderate consumption protects the heart by thinning the blood in much the same way as low-dose aspirin, while its beneficial flavanols protect artery walls and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Immune support

Weight for weight it has the same amount of antioxidants as red wine. These support overall immunity and intestinal immunity by boosting the response of antibodies and T-helper cells (a type of blood cell that helps kickstart the immune response), and strengthening the intestinal lining against invading microorganisms.

Eases coughs

One of the stimulants in cocoa, theobromine, has been shown to be more effective than codeine (a traditional cough suppressant) for soothing a sore throat.

Digestion

Studies show substances in dark chocolate help ease gastrointestinal upsets.

How Do I Get The Best From It?

Choose organic

At least 30 pesticides are used in conventional cocoa so opt for organic.

Go dark

For the most antioxidants, choose semisweet or unsweetened chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa solids and less sugar. Milk chocolate contains fewer antioxidants.

A little of the best

Eating a little high-quality chocolate will be far more satisfying than a highly processed bar. Avoid bars with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

How Do I Use It?

Raw cacao nibs

The minimally processed nibs contain all the cocoa bean’s nutrients. Eat as they are or add to fruit salads or baking.

Hot cocoa

Milk inhibits the absorption of cocoa polyphenols, so mix 2 tbsp high-quality cocoa powder with hot water and drink in a demitasse cup as you would an espresso.

Cocoa Powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder has twice the level of antioxidant polyphenols as processed dark chocolate, and 4 times that of milk chocolate (white chocolate contains no antioxidants).

Cocoa Beans

Catechin and epicatechin, the antioxidants found in cocoa beans and cocoa products, are the same as those that give green tea its anticancer properties.

Cacao Nibs

These are dried, roasted, and crushed cacao, or cocoa, beans, which are used to make chocolate. Like cocoa powder, the cacao nibs are high in antioxidants.

Dark Chocolate

Studies show that people who eat dark chocolate regularly have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.