Celebrating the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

July 7th is world chocolate day!  Today we celebrate the many health benefits of dark chocolate.  Read on for nutrition advice you can embrace with a smile!

Heart Health: The antioxidants found in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the heart, thus reducing the risk of stroke, coronary artery disease, and death from heart disease. 

Immune System: Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, potent plant compounds that fight inflammation and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. 

Brain Function: Flavanols found in dark chocolate positively impact brain function, including improved reaction time and better memory.

Athletic Performance: Epicatechin, a powerful flavanol found in dark chocolate, has been shown to boost endurance in athletes by increasing blood circulation and reducing oxygen consumption during moderate-intensity exercise.

Stress Relief: Researchers found that eating 1.4 oz of dark chocolate daily for two weeks reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the flight-or-fight hormones known as catecholamines in highly stressed individuals. 

Note: Most of the benefits seen in research are associated with dark chocolate containing at least 70% cacao content.  To maximize the health benefits, enjoy a moderate portion (1-1.4oz) of minimally processed dark chocolate containing 70% or higher cacao content as part of a balanced diet.

A Healthy Recipe…

Chocolate Berry Smoothie by Sara Dow


  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • ½ a frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen riced cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups oat milk (or substitute your favorite dairy or plant milk)

Preparation:  Combine in a high-powered blender and process until smooth.

Nutrition information:  The antioxidant-rich cocoa powder and berries provide a potent immune-boosting combo.  Frozen riced cauliflower adds a creamy texture and boosts fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C.  Yogurt, high in protein, promotes satiety (a feeling of fullness), and probiotics that support gut health. 

Check out this Resource…

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test the safety or purity of protein powder, it is possible (and all too common) for the ingredients listed on the label not to represent the actual contents. 

Look for protein powder verified by third-party testing companies such as the non-profit USP or NSF International’s Certified for Sport. If third-party tested products are outside your price range, check out the free resource LabDoor, which tests the purity of nutritional supplements and offers a top 10 list of protein powders

Protein powder offers convenience but cannot fully reproduce the benefits of protein derived from whole food sources.  Add Greek yogurt, chia seeds, flax seeds, or nut butter to your smoothie to boost protein.  

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning.