It’s been reported in the media for years that eating chocolate is heart-healthy, helps prevent cancer, and boosts your mood. But is that really true?
Research shows that flavanols in cocoa beans, an ingredient in chocolate, are antioxidants, meaning that they may reduce damage to cells. Damaged cells can lead to cancer development. What we don’t know is whether chocolate itself has an effect. There have been a number of studies on the health benefits of chocolate, but they mostly asked people to remember how much chocolate or chocolate products they ate, then compared it to whether or not they’d had heart problems or cancer. So, while these studies are interesting, they really don’t tell us if it’s the chocolate itself making a difference, or if it’s the flavanols, which can also be found in other foods.
Regardless, the studies have come back with mixed results. Some report that eating chocolate may lower the risk of certain cancers, while others show no benefit. Still others show that eating chocolate increases cancer risk. There is stronger evidence suggesting that eating chocolate may help prevent heart disease. Flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure and make your heart, veins, and arteries work better.
It's important to remember that chocolate is still candy, and it has extra calories, sugar, and fat. Eat it sparingly. After all, we know that being overweight or obese is linked to certain types of cancers, not to mention diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. If you want to get more antioxidants, you can eat more fruits and vegetables.
But if you're still craving chocolate, try small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. It might give your heart some benefit, and it generally has less sugar and saturated fat than milk chocolate or other kinds of chocolate.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.