Health Benefits of Chocolate for PCOS

Here’s some sweet news: Chocolate is good for you, especially if you have PCOS.

Women with PCOS have been shown to have higher cravings for sweets. In fact, chocolate was the most frequently craved food item reported among women with high testosterone and menstrual disturbances.

What’s unique about chocolate is that it’s rich in flavanols, which provide numerous health benefits to those with PCOS. Flavanols are a group of antioxidant molecules that occur naturally in foods like tea, fruits, vegetables and chocolate.

Chocolate also contains a rich supply of minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc, and calcium which have been shown to be low in women with PCOS.

Here’s what to know about chocolate and its health benefits for PCOS.

The Different Types of Chocolate

There are several different varieties of chocolate, depending on how it’s processed.

Cocoa liquor is the paste made from ground, roasted, shelled, and fermented cocoa beans, called nibs. It contains both nonfat cocoa solids and cocoa butter.  It is cocoa liquor that is the “percent cacao” on food packaging.

Cocoa powder is made by removing some of the cocoa butter from the liquor.

Solid Chocolate is made by combining cocoa liquor with cocoa butter and sugar. The proportion of cocoa liquor in the final product determines how dark the chocolate is.

There are several varieties of chocolate, based on color:

Milk chocolate, the most commonly consumed type in the United States, is made with the condensed or powdered milk. Milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors

Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate is often referred to as dark chocolate and must contain no less than 35% by weight of cocoa liquor.

Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and a little sugar. The darker you go, the more antioxidants and health benefits. Choose 70% dark chocolate or higher to obtain the most health benefits (see below).

White chocolate contains only cocoa butter (at least 20% by weight) -no cocoa solids- combined with sugar and milk.

Chocolate contains both monounsaturated and saturated fats. One-third of the fat in chocolate is stearic acid which is believed to have a neutral or beneficial effect on cholesterol (The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee even acknowledges stearic acid be considered separately from cholesterol-raising fats).

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Health Benefits of Chocolate for PCOS

Do you love chocolate? You’re in for a treat! Here’s just some of the many benefits as to why chocolate is so good for people with PCOS.

Lowers Testosterone

Dark chocolate containing 90% cocoa is considered a good source of zinc (3.5 mg/100 g). Zinc has been shown to inhibit testosterone from converting into its active form of testosterone, DHT, which contributes to hirsutism.

Women with PCOS who supplemented with magnesium, zinc, and calcium (minerals found in chocolate) for 12 weeks showed significant reductions in hirsutism symptoms, as well as improved biomarkers of inflammation, and oxidative stress.

Reduces Risk for High Blood Pressure

The cocoa bean contains several important minerals that have been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. These are magnesium, copper, potassium, and calcium.

Magnesium is a mineral that the majority of women with PCOS were found to be significantly lacking in. Dark chocolate (70%–85% cacao) in particular, provides 36 mg of magnesium per serving, which is more than three times the amount provided by milk chocolate.

Healthier Heart Functioning

It is still unknown whether women with PCOS suffer from more cardiac related problems, but what is clear: they do tend to suffer from many factors that increases their risk for cardiovascular diseases. The rich flavanols found in chocolate have been shown to help improve the lining of the coronary arteries which help blood flow. In a large population study involving 31,823 middle-aged and elderly women found consuming 1–3 servings per month or 1–2 servings per week of chocolate had significantly lower rates of heart failure hospitalization or heart failure death compared with those consuming no chocolate.

All forms of chocolate have been found to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol, and may also reduce total cholesterol when consumed in low doses by individuals with cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure, and high cholesterol).

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Chocolate Improves Insulin

The flavanols in cocoa may improve insulin resistance by reducing oxidative stress, improving endothelial function, and altering glucose metabolism. Chocolate is a source of copper. Copper is needed for glucose metabolism and dark chocolate also provides 31% of the U.S. RDA for copper whereas milk chocolate provides 10% of the U.S. RDA per serving. As mentioned earlier, chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, which also plays a role in glucose and insulin.

Eating 100 g of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate for 15 days was associated with not only reduced BP and improved endothelial function, but also improved insulin sensitivity in hypertensive patients.

Another study showed that insulin sensitivity improved significantly in adults consuming high-flavanol cocoa (902 mg flavanols) for 12 weeks compared to low-flavanol cocoa.

Chocolate Provides a Good Source of Iron

Surprisingly, chocolate contains a good amount of iron. Iron is important for red blood cells to transport oxygen and is needed in higher amounts during pregnancy. Milk chocolate contains 5% of the RDA for iron for adult men and postmenopausal women per serving whereas dark chocolate provides 25% of the RDA per serving.

Boosts Cognitive Functioning

Increased consumption of flavanols may increase mental fitness. In a small study published in Scientific Reports, people who were given a cocoa drink with high flavanol levels were able to complete certain cognitive tasks 11% more efficiently than those who did not have a flavanol rich drink. Those who had the flavanol rich beverage had three times higher and faster increases in blood oxygen levels.

Chocolate Improves Mood

Eating chocolate can improve mood (just ask anyone!) and there is data to show it. In a 2006 study, Macht and colleagues found that eating a chocolate bar elevated mood more than an apple.

Bottom line: Chocolate, when eaten in moderate amounts, offers numerous health benefits to people with PCOS. Given the research on how chocolate can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve mood and cognitive functioning, and contains many important minerals that tend to be lacking in the diets of women with PCOS, there’s no reason to avoid chocolate if you have PCOS (unless of course you have an allergy or intolerance). While both milk and dark chocolate have these health benefits, the darker you go in chocolate color, the higher the cocoa percentage and the better the benefits.

Enjoy! What’s your favorite: white, milk, or dark chocolate?

Sources

  1. Maktabi M. Magnesium-Zinc-Calcium-Vitamin D Co-supplementation Improves Hormonal Profiles, Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2018 Mar;182(1):21-28.
  2. Gratton, G et al. Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults. Sci Rep 10, 19409 (2020).
  3. Lim SS. Hyperandrogenemia, psychological distress, and food cravings in young women. Physiol Behav. 2009 Sep 7;98(3):276-80.
  4. Katz DL. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811.
  5. Mostofsky E. Chocolate intake and incidence of heart failure: a population-based prospective study of middle-aged and elderly women. Circ Heart Fail. 2010 Sep; 3(5):612-6.
  6. Jia L. Short-term effect of cocoa product consumption on lipid profile: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul; 92(1):218-25.
  7. Grassi D. Blood pressure is reduced and insulin sensitivity increased in glucose-intolerant, hypertensive subjects after 15 days of consuming high-polyphenol dark chocolate. J Nutr. 2008 Sep; 138(9):1671-6.
  8. Davison K. Effect of cocoa flavanols and exercise on cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight and obese subjects. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Aug; 32(8):1289-96.
  9. Macht M, Dettmer DEveryday mood and emotions after eating a chocolate bar or an apple. Appetite. 2006 May; 46(3):332-6.
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Comment (1)
  • Priyanka

    February 19, 2021 at 6:13 am

    Thank you so much for letting me know the benefits of chocolate for PCOS.

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