Sweet and Supplemental: Chocolate May Benefit Every Athlete, by Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD

Sweet and Supplemental: Chocolate May Benefit Every Athlete, by Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD

Sweet and Supplemental: Chocolate May Benefit Every Athlete

Think chocolate will pack on the pounds and slow your pace down? Although chocolate often gets a bad reputation, it contains power-packed properties that are valuable in every athlete’s diet. Chocolate comes in many different forms.  Dark chocolate packs the biggest punch, followed by milk chocolate and white chocolate which has little or no nutritional value. But the real star for providing a healthy benefit is cocoa. Even within the cocoa family, there are significant differences. In fact, processing cocoa harshly, results in the cocoa losing most if not all its benefits as a food.

The secret behind dark chocolate’s powerful punch is the cacao bean.  The bean is rich and abundant in flavonoids, a natural healthy organic compound. Flavanols, the primary type of flavonoid in cocoa and chocolate, have powerful antioxidant properties. They are responsible for providing numerous health benefits. The downside is cacao (the cocoa bean) by itself is unappetizing with its chalky and extremely bitter flavor. Once you add milk, butter, and sugar to cocoa, it becomes chocolate. The yummy, creamy taste we crave. However, the processing of chocolate takes out the flavanols negating the health benefit of cacao.

Here’s the secret, so listen up!

Dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is the cacao bean ground and roasted) has higher amounts of flavanols, providing powerful antioxidant benefits. But even the darkest chocolate does in fact have a negative impact on your body composition if consumed in great quantities. More on ways to avoid this pitfall a little later but for now let’s look at some of the health benefits of chocolate, cocoa and flavanols.

Supports Circulatory Health**

The ongoing research and past historical scientific studies have provided some strong and moderate evidence that cocoa’s flavanols improve blood flow. The increased blood flow provides improved vein and arterial flexibility helping to reduce overall pressure.  This benefit is experienced by all the major organs of the body, including the brain, heart and skin. We will continue to see more research on this topic as more companies are investing to further scientific studies on flavanols.

Aids in Sun Protection**

According to one small study, flavanols offer some protection from UV sun damage by increasing blood flow, skin density, and hydration. This study showed that subjects who ate chocolate consistently for three months took longer to burn than non-dark chocolate eaters. Again, more definitive science will determine the reality of this initial study.

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help to clear the body of free radicals which left to its own devices will cause oxidative damage to cells and inflammation. The aging process accelerates when oxidative damage and inflammation are present.  A diet high in antioxidant-rich foods help protect the body and keep it looking younger.

Protect against Type 2 Diabetes**

Some studies have shown that dark chocolate keeps blood vessels healthy, protecting against Type 2 diabetes.** Perhaps it is the flavanols which help your cells function normally? With normal functioning cells there is improved insulin sensitivity, thus reducing the risk for Type 2 diabetes. More studies are needed to understand the mechanics of the flavanols and the impact on insulin sensitivity.

Helps Relieve Stress

As it turns out, emotional eating (in small quantities) might not be so bad for you after all. Studies show that anxious people who ate 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day for two weeks had significantly improved cortisol levels, thereby improving mood.   Maybe chocolate does cure a broken heart!

Reduces Cravings

With the cacao bean providing fiber, dark chocolate increases satiety as opposed to the lighter in color chocolates. Research shows that dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.

So, as you can see there are many advantages to consuming dark chocolate. However, when you take into account the amount of sugar and fat in most dark chocolates, the health benefits quickly diminish. In fact, a direct negative correlation can occur to one’s health from over consumption of chocolate. The added fat and sugars outweigh the benefits of the cocoa flavanol content.

However, there’s a new way to get all the goodness from the cocoa plant. Cocoa Elite products help ensure you get your daily flavanols in a healthier way, by removing the unnecessary fats and sugars. Truly a “Healthy Cocoa for your Body’s Delight®”, as they say.

Not only do their products help to deliver the most cocoa flavanols per serving, the company takes pride in providing other natural ingredients to complement their flagship cocoa.

Cocoa Elite provides healthy products which you can enjoy with complete confidence.



Susan Kitchen has a Master’s in Public Health and Nutrition. She is a registered and licensed dietitian, a certified sports dietitian, a USA Triathlon Level II endurance coach, IRONMAN Certified Coach and on the United States Olympic Committee sports dietitian registry.




***Cocoa Elite is not responsible for the content of this article. The statements made within this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not supported by Cocoa Elite. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We recommend you consult with a licensed health care professional before starting any diet or exercise program. All bloggers receive a small compensation for the contributions.

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