Chocolate is famous for two things: as a gift from a lover, and as solace during heartache. Chocolate’s aphrodisiac claims (hence the lover's gift) are debatable, but some studies suggest that it may help relieve stress (including the emotional stress of heartbreak).
Two studies published in April 2018 show that eating dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao and 30 percent cane sugar has positive effects on stress and moods.
“For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content - the more sugar, the happier we are," principal investigator Lee Berk said. "This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.”
Another 2009 study conducted in Berlin showed that 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate, when eaten daily, was found to reduce stress levels in highly stressed people and was also found to partially correct stress-related biochemical imbalances.
Translation: Eating chocolate during times of stress actually makes sense.
Of course, if you're looking for justification for eating chocolate, there is plenty of good news. For example, chocolate eaters tend to be slimmer, more Nobel Prize winners come from chocolate-eating populations, and it could even help protect your skin from UV rays.
But that doesn’t mean eating a typical chocolate candy bar is going to give you those benefits (though it’s guaranteed to give you a big dose of sugar). Instead of reaching for the more sweetened milk chocolate, look for dark chocolate — the darker the better.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in April 2014.