Great news: A recent cross-sectional study of over 13,000 U.S. adults found that people who ate dark chocolate in the prior 24 hours were 70 percent less likely to report depression.*
The benefits were not simply due to the pleasure of the taste because; the same effects were not seen with milk chocolate, although many people prefer that taste to dark chocolate. You may ask, isn’t it possible that people who strive for a healthy lifestyle are more likely to consume dark chocolate?
After all, most of us know that dark chocolate has been linked to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, and a host of other maladies. But unlike other studies, these researchers controlled for other lifestyle factors like physical activity, smoking, alcohol, and total sugar and caloric intake, as well as age, sex, marital status, education, income, weight, and presence of chronic medical problems. In the end, the association held up.
Even better, if you are careful, there is little threat to your waist line because it did not take much dark chocolate to achieve these antidepressant effects. On average, the consumers of dark chocolate ate a little less than half an ounce per day.
And the quality of the dark chocolate did not seem to matter: You don’t have to buy the expensive brands that promise high percentages of cocoa. Trader Joe’s will have the same effect as Godiva. The cut-off for “dark” chocolate was ≥ 45% cocoa which is much lower than the optimal dose for physical health, which is 1 to 2 ounces a day of ≥ 70% cocoa. Keeping the percentage of cocoa high and the serving size low maximizes the healthy ingredients while minimizing the calories and sugar.