To improve the mood? Eat chocolate… To protect your muscles? The answer is the same, eat chocolate. But not just any chocolate, to have these benefits, chocolate should be dark, at least 85%. This emerges from two very recent scientific researches. The first was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry by a Korean team (Shin et al, J Nutr Biochem, 2022) and the second in the BMC sports science, medicine and rehabilitation journal by a group of British scientists (Corr et al, BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil, 2021).
Dark chocolate improves mood
It is well known that dark chocolate helps to chase away sadness. However, until now, little was known about the effects on mood of the daily consumption of dark chocolate. Plus, when it comes to dark chocolate, what does it really mean? Beyond what percentage of cocoa do the benefits begin to be observed? The first study we're talking about today, the one conducted by a Korean team, answers these questions. Scientists recruited 50 people, all between 20 and 30 years old and in good physical health. The volunteers were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to eat 30 grams per day of 85% dark chocolate for three months. The second group ate 30 grams per day of 70% dark chocolate for three months and the third group received a placebo. Well, at the end of the three months only those who had consumed 85% dark chocolate showed a significant improvement in mood. Not only that, 85% dark chocolate, but not 70% chocolate, acted as a prebiotic, supporting the intestinal microbiota and promoting good bacteria.
Therefore, the beneficial action on the mood of 85% dark chocolate is explained by its protective action on the intestine, in what experts call the intestinal brain axis.
Dark chocolate protects muscles
Cocoa and dark chocolate contain precious substances, flavonoids, with an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. Exercise, especially if intense, can expose the muscles to attack by free radicals with consequences such as inflammation, pain and reduction in muscle function. As emerges from the review published by British scientists, dark chocolate helps to counteract the damage of free radicals and allow quick muscle recovery after exercise. In this case, to have any benefits, the consumption of dark chocolate should be regular. What has been observed is that dark chocolate is actually able to reduce inflammation indicators. Not only that, the carbohydrates contained in cocoa are able to restore the glycogen stores in the muscles, which represents their energy supply, and thus accelerate the recovery of the muscles after exercise. The studies presented in the review analyzed the effects of a considerable consumption of dark chocolate, around 80 grams per day, or in the form of a drink containing cocoa powder, around 60 grams. In any case, even the physical exercise on which the action of chocolate was studied was considerable, such as running or cycling. It is clear that within a lifestyle that includes moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, regular consumption of dark chocolate in limited quantities and possible compatibly with a healthy and varied diet, is certainly helpful in protecting muscles and allow them to recover quickly.