Bonus: It can also help tamp down inflammation and improve your mood.
Good news, chocolate lovers: Your favorite sweet treat may actually be good for you. So start sprinkling cacao nibs on your yogurt and sipping on dark chocolate smoothies, because new research shows chocolate could be beneficial to your health.
Researchers from Loma Linda University presented two studies at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference. According to the press release, the studies found that dark chocolate can reduce inflammation and stress, while also improving memory, immunity, and mood.
The trials used chocolate containing a minimum of 70 percent cacao and 30 percent organic cane sugar. Prior to these studies, cacao has been recognized by researchers as an excellent source of flavonoids, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory agents and benefits to brain and cardiovascular functioning.
"This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings,” said Lee S. Berk, the principal investigator for both studies and associate dean of research affairs at the School of Allied Health Professionals, in a press release.
The first study asked participants to eat one dark chocolate bar, and then researchers examined their brain waves. Their findings? 30 minutes after participants consumed the chocolate bar, their gamma waves increased. These waves signal that the nerves are working to the best of their ability, leading to optimum learning and memory, according to ABC News.
The second study evaluated chocolate consumption and the immune system. Volunteers were asked to eat dark chocolate and then researchers took blood samples. The results found participants had an increase in anti-inflammatory markers in addition to an increase in T-Cells, which help fight infections, ABC News reports.
It is important to note that the studies were conducted with 10 participants, and presented at an annual meeting. Berks suggests the studies require further investigation. Though they are due to be published in The FASEB Journal, they are not currently peer reviewed.
The bottom line: Eat a balanced diet, but feel free to enjoy dark chocolate as an occasional treat. After all, it might be good for your health.