Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and with more than 50% of celebrants purchasing candy for a loved one, chocolate is a hot commodity. But it’s also gotten a bad rap over the years, purportedly causing everything from pimples to poor cholesterol. We decided to get to the bottom of these claims and separate the facts from the myths.
Eaten in moderation, chocolate can be good for you. Flavanols — antioxidants that have been linked to heart health — aren’t just found in tea and red wine. Chocolate has them too, along with dietary fiber and assorted minerals.
Dark chocolate in particular has been linked to health benefits, including lower blood sugar, decreased “bad” cholesterol and increased “good” cholesterol. Why dark chocolate? Because it has more cocoa solids (drawn from the cacao beans on the nutrient-filled cacao tree) than milk chocolate.
Chocolate stands alongside oysters and asparagus as an alleged agent of sexual arousal. Research studies exploring whether two chemicals in chocolate — tryptophan and phenylethylamine — play a role in arousal have been inconclusive. But take a leap of faith and believe anyway — believers in the sensual benefits of chocolate may benefit psychologically, even if the physiology doesn’t provide a strong backup.
Even though mom said it for years, chocolate does not cause acne. The true culprit may be a chain of events that could happen to people who eat a lot of the good stuff: A high-fat/high-sugar diet can increase the body’s production of sebum, an oily matter that lubricates our hair and skin. This increase in sebum can cause an inflammatory reaction, which can lead to — you guessed it — acne.
So while chocolate doesn’t cause acne per se, overindulging could result in some Oh-my-god-it’s-middle-school-photo-day-and-I-have-a-huge-pimple-on-my-forehead-type incidents. As with everything, moderation is key.
Unless you’re consuming it in large quantities, chocolate isn’t likely to keep you up at night. Milk chocolate has about 12 milligrams of caffeine per serving, with dark chocolate clocking in at 20 milligrams to 40 milligrams per serving. To put that in perspective, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains anywhere from 65 milligrams to 120 milligrams of caffeine.
It’s recommended that adults consume no more than 200 milligrams to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. So go ahead and have that extra square — you’ll be counting sheep before you know it.