Throughout the course of their practice, any dermatologist is asked a number of interesting questions. One of the most common of these concerns the relationship between chocolate and skin health. Most frequently, patients ask, “Does chocolate really cause pimples?”.
The short answer to the question is no. Scientists have never been able to prove a connection between chocolate consumption and the onset of acne. The reason so many people end up asking does chocolate really cause pimples is because of a widely circulated old wives’ tale that got a lot of publicity in the 1990s with an infomercial. In fact, studies have shown that chocolate, and other often blamed acne culprits like potato chips and pizza, don’t actually cause breakouts.
Still, a healthy, nutritious diet is a key component of maintaining a fresh complexion. Moreover, there may be a valid argument for the consumption of chocolate. Perhaps the question patients should really be asking is, “Is chocolate good for your skin?”
It seems counterintuitive. How can something that most people see as an indulgence only to be enjoyed on rare occasions actually be good for you? The reality is surprising.
High Quality is Better
Eating a selection of the chocolate bars found in most grocery stores is not likely to improve the health and appearance of your skin. Instead, it’s important to look for high quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%. It’s wise to seek out chocolate that contains even more cocoa than that, since it is nutritive components in cocoa that will provide you with a number of health benefits.
The relationship between dark chocolate and skin health is well documented. In fact, routine consumption of high quality dark chocolate has been shown to provide other health benefits as well. The secret ingredient that explains how is chocolate healthy is flavonoids. Flavonoids are commonly found in plant based foods, such as chocolate, and have long been recognized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most people are familiar with the concept of flavonoids in foods like blueberries and strawberries, both of which are known antioxidants. High quality dark chocolate is similarly nutrient dense, and can therefore provide a healthy boost to the whole body, including the skin.
Dark chocolate and skin health are connected because of the flavonols found in the cocoa. Flavonols are simply a subset of flavonoids that are antioxidants. In several studies, flavonols have been shown to protect skin from sun damage, which means fewer lines, wrinkles and spots. The result is younger looking skin, but it’s still important to slather on the sunscreen.
Battle Stress in a Delicious Way
Anyone who is wondering, “Is chocolate good for your skin?” might also be interested to discover that chocolate can be an effective stress fighter. When you feel less stress, your body isn’t forced to release as much stress hormone. Since stress hormone can be quite damaging to collagen, people who more successfully manage pressure may also have healthier, more elastic collagen. The result is fewer lines and wrinkles while skin maintains a firmer and more elastic texture. Another study even concluded that participants who consumed high quality dark chocolate enjoyed better skin thickness and hydration, both key factors in great skin.
Other Health Benefits
The next time you’re wondering, “How is chocolate healthy?” consider this as well. That high quality dark chocolate just might benefit your heart. Flavonoids help to keep blood platelets less sticky, which means they aren’t as likely to form a clot that can lead to stroke or heart attack. Regular consumption of dark chocolate may also relax blood vessels, good news for anyone dealing with high blood pressure. Also, simply enjoying a pleasurable food increases production of neurotransmitters that enhance mood. Clearly, there are plenty of reasons for concluding that chocolate is good for your skin.
While dark chocolate is good for your skin, portion control matters. In a typical 12 ounce candy bar, there may be plenty of flavonoids, but there is also fat, sugar and calories. If you were to consume such a chocolate bar every day, the detriments to your health would quickly outstrip any benefits. Current guidelines recommend consuming just two or three ounces per week. To satisfy more frequent chocolate cravings, many people choose to enjoy one ounce every day as an after dinner treat.
Read Those Labels
When purchasing chocolate, reading the labels is imperative. Most bars that contain 70% or more cocoa state this fact on the front of the packaging. To make certain, simply read the ingredients on the back. A list of ingredients that begins with sugar or milk likely does not have the cocoa content you need to get the maximum health benefits. Cocoa should be the number one ingredient.
As with most things connected to a healthy lifestyle, moderation is the key. Stick to the right amount of cocoa, and consume chocolate within recommended guidelines to get the most benefit. You just might be pleasantly surprised by positive changes in your skin along with a healthier heart. You can also officially stop wondering, “Does chocolate really cause pimples?” and start enjoying the connection between dark chocolate and skin health.