Information abounds on the health benefits of dark chocolate and there’s research supporting the claims as you may have seen. But what exactly is dark chocolate and can it be a healthy addition to your fertility diet? Let’s dive in and take a look at this further.
What is Dark Chocolate?
Chocolate is made from several things, including cacao beans, milk solids, sugar, soy lecithin or other emulsifiers, and sometimes vanilla and other flavorings. Dark chocolate is different from milk chocolate in that it doesn’t contain any milk solids.
Cacao beans are grown in more tropical environments. They are found in cocoa pods, are fermented, dried, and then roasted. The fibrous outer coating is removed and processed to make cocoa nibs that are part cocoa butter part chocolate solids. The cocoa nibs are further processed in a conch machine that grates the chocolate into a fine powder.
You can determine how much cocoa solids are in a bar of chocolate by reading the ingredients…
- Bars that are 30% cocoa solids are called sweet dark chocolate.
- Most dark chocolate bars have more cocoa solids than this—as high as or greater than 80% in bars that are extremely dark.
- There is less sweetness and a stronger chocolate flavor in dark chocolate bars.
- Milk chocolate has cocoa solids in it, but generally not as much as with dark chocolate.
Nutrients in Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is considered a nutritious food you can consume in small quantities. A 100-gram bar of chocolate has about 600 calories in it. It contains a mixture of protein (7.8 grams), fat (43 grams), and carbohydrates (46 grams). There are 24 grams of sugar and 11 grams of fiber per bar. Minerals found in dark chocolate include iron, magnesium, and zinc.
If you eat a bar that is 70 to 85% cocoa solids, you will get 67% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper, and 98% of the RDI for manganese. A bar of dark chocolate will also provide you with phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
While dark chocolate does contain fat, it contains a mixture of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, and a small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The stimulants, theobromine and caffeine, can be found in dark chocolate, but generally not enough to affect your sleep.
Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Some people consider dark chocolate to be a superfood—and for good reason. There are many good health benefits of dark chocolate you should know about:
- Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants, which can help the health of sperm and egg cells. There is a term in nutrition called ORAC, which stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It is a way to measure the antioxidant power of a specific food. Raw and unprocessed cocoa beans have a really high ORAC score, higher even than acai berries and blueberries. The major antioxidants seen in dark chocolate include catechins, flavanols, and polyphenols, along with the metals like selenium and zinc.
- The flavonols in dark chocolate have the capacity to maximize blood flow and reduce blood pressure. They can cause arterial walls to make nitric oxide, which dilates arteries and reduces blood pressure. This isn’t enough to use it to treat high blood pressure but the overall trend is in the right direction.
- Dark chocolate can reduce your risk for heart disease through its effect on cholesterol. It can raise the good HDL cholesterol level and can prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL cholesterol is especially bad because it makes the LDL cholesterol more likely to damage the inside of the arteries of the heart. Because dark chocolate contains antioxidants, it can protect LDL cholesterol from being oxidized.
- Dark chocolate has the ability to lessen insulin resistance. This not only reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease but can mean good news for women who have PCOS because insulin resistance is often a big part of this infertility problem in women.
- Dark chocolate can help protect your skin from sun damage, maximize blood flow to your skin and help to make skin more elastic and hydrated because of its flavanol content (not to be relied upon alone as sun protection).
- Dark chocolate can improve the blood flow to the brain, which may have the secondary effect of improving brain function. This is especially true for older people who might have some cognitive impairment. In the short-term, the stimulants in dark chocolate can impact your memory and impairment.
- One recent research study demonstrated an improvement in stress levels when taking dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao.
- It can also reduce inflammation, improve memory, and enhance the effectiveness of the immune system. Mood can also be improved.
How Much Dark Chocolate Can You Have?
Savor a square or two, which is generally the suggested daily amount.
Aim for dark chocolate bars with at minimum 70% cacao, 30% organic cane sugar. Added dried fruits, cacao nibs, nuts and seeds are fine (added candy pieces or caramel aren’t).
Again, dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.
Registered Dietitian Brianna Elliott says, “It is best to choose dark chocolate made with as few ingredients as possible.
The best dark chocolate always has chocolate liquor or cocoa listed as the first ingredient. There may be several forms of cocoa listed, such as cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and cocoa butter. All of these are acceptable additions to dark chocolate…”
Fruity Dark Chocolate Fertility Smoothie Recipe
Not every smoothie has to have just fruits and vegetables in it. You can make a fruity dark chocolate smoothie that can be used as a part of your fertility diet. This is a great smoothie recipe you can use:
Fruity Dark Chocolate Fertility Smoothie
(Makes two smoothies or one large one)
- ½ to 1 quart of hulled fresh or frozen organic strawberries
Alternatively, you can use 1 ½ to 3 cups of pitted tart cherries that are fresh or frozen
- 1 5.3-ounce container of non-dairy yogurt or Greek yogurt
- ½ cup of full-fat raw or organic milk or nut milk that is unsweetened
- 1 ounce of 85% of shredded or chopped dark chocolate
Alternatively, you can put in 1 ounce of unsweetened cacao powder
- 1 serving of FertiliGreens and Maca powder optional
Mix all ingredients in a blender or smoothie maker until smooth. Pour into two glasses and top the smoothie with granola, chocolate chunks, hemp hearts, or chopped walnuts.
Enjoy some dark chocolate!
Dark chocolate is packed with healthful nutrients, some of which have advantages to your fertility health. By reducing stress and improving your mood, dark chocolate can take some of the stress away that can impact your fertility. Antioxidants are also important in sperm and egg health and there is no lack of antioxidants in the dark chocolate you consume. Enjoy it in moderation!
- Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. (2018, April 24). Dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation: Data represent first human trials examining the impact of dark chocolate consumption on cognition and other brain functions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424133628.htm
- Gunnars, K. (June 25, 2018). 7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate
- LaBau, E. (06/10/2018). Dark Chocolate. Retrievef from https://www.thespruceeats.com/dark-chocolate-520354
- The Journey From Cacao Pod to Chocolate. EHChocolatier Blog. Retrieved from https://www.ehchocolatier.com/blogs/blog/making-chocolate
- Elliott, B. (October 8, 2016). Best Dark Chocolate: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dark-chocolate-buyers-gu