I am eating a piece of rich dark chocolate even as I type! Why, you ask? Not because it is decadent, of course. I am eating this dark chocolate because scientific studies prove that dark chocolate (which is high in antioxidant flavonoids) can significantly protect your skin from UV damage and wrinkles!
The key is that not all chocolates are created equal. Cocoa beans fresh from the tree are very rich in flavanoids. Flavonoids are plant-derived antioxidants that are the main reason why beautifully colored flower petals can bake for hours in the blazing sun without drying out or being damaged by harmful UV rays. The process used to make conventional chocolate strips the chocolate of these potent antioxidants. Thus, white chocolate and milk chocolate hardly contain any flavanoids at all! The highest flavonoid content is in the darkest of chocolate containing at least 70 percent cacao (cocoa) or in cocoa powder. This type of chocolate is high quality and even tastes a bit bitter (but still delicious).
The Yummy Facts:
A London study compared a group of subjects who ate flavanol-rich dark chocolate with a group of subjects who ate standard milk chocolate for a three month period. Over the 12 week period, the milk chocolate group was no more or less protected from UV radiation. However, the high flavanol chocolate group DOUBLED their protection from UV radiation as compared to the baseline. In other words, they could spend TWICE as much time in the sun before they started to see a burn! The study found that eating this type of dark chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light and sunburn!
Another study in Korean women ages 43-86 showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for 24 weeks had positive effects on facial wrinkles, skin roughness, hydration AND skin elasticity.
And yet a third study proved that cocoa pod extract has a high potential as a cosmetic ingredient because it has anti-wrinkle, skin brightening and sunscreen effects (specifically, as a UVB sunscreen).
Now, even though these findings are so exciting given my love for chocolate, we can’t go overboard. Chocolate is high in sugar and eating processed sugar leads to inflammation and the risk of increasing the potential for acne and other inflammatory conditions like heart disease or diabetes. I eat a square or two per night after dinner and really try to savor them!
That said, I love solid scientific studies that encourage me to eat chocolate. So, this Valentine’s Day, eat that piece of rich dark chocolate and smile because this dermatologist told you that it is good for your skin!
See below for some of my favorite sources of delectable and healthy dark chocolate: (Health tip: If your chocolate says “processed with alkali“ on the nutrition information label, then it’s going to contain substantially less flavanols. Processing with alkali is called “dutching” and this is something you want to avoid.)