When You Eat Too Much Chocolate, This Is What Happens To You

Do you ever find yourself snacking on chocolate while watching TV or before bedtime? The truth is that no one can blame you. Chocolate, whether we're talking about Swiss specialties or bittersweet varieties, has an amazing flavor. After just one bite, it melts in your mouth and leaves you craving more. Plus, it's chock-full of antioxidants and healthy fats. But even so, eating too much chocolate can do more harm than good.

Dark chocolate is particularly healthy due to its high antioxidant levels. Cocoa, its main ingredient, boasts large amounts of flavanols, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and other nutrients, states Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As the researchers note, cocoa flavanols may protect against diabetes and high blood pressure, leading to a lower risk of heart disease. On top of that, dark chocolate is relatively low in sugar. Ideally, choose a brand with at least 70% cocoa to reap the benefits.

But what happens when you eat too much chocolate? For starters, you may end up gaining weight. Most chocolate varieties are high in calories and can add inches to your waistline. Some are packed with sugar, which only makes things worse.

Eating too much chocolate can lead to weight gain

Chocolate packs a lot of flavor, and it's easy to go overboard. The calories can add up quickly. Milk chocolate, for example, boasts around 150 calories, 16.8 grams of carbs, and 8.4 grams of fat per ounce, according to MyFoodData. White chocolate has a similar nutritional value, but it's slightly higher in fat. Dark chocolate with 70 to 85% cocoa, by comparison, provides 170 calories, 13 grams of carbs, and 12.1 grams of fat. While it's healthier than other varieties, it can still make the scale go up.

On the positive side, dark chocolate may increase satiety and reduce sugar cravings due to its high fat content. In one study, men who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate consumed 17% fewer calories at their next meal than those eating the same amount of milk chocolate before a meal (via Nutrition and Diabetes). The time of the day when you eat chocolate matters, too. Clinical evidence suggests that eating milk chocolate in the morning may suppress hunger and sugar cravings while increasing fat breakdown, according to the FASEB Journal. Surprisingly, eating chocolate in the evening may help your body break down and use carbs more efficiently.

However, subjects who participated in these studies consumed relatively small amounts of chocolate. The recommended serving size is 1 to 2 ounces, but most folks eat way more than that in one sitting (per Life Enriching Communities). Over time, this habit can result in weight gain and wreak havoc on your health. 

Chocolate may cause headaches and insomnia

Most health experts advise against eating chocolate before bedtime. Cocoa, its primary ingredient, is naturally rich in caffeine. Dark chocolate supplies about 23 milligrams of caffeine per ounce (via MyFoodData). The same amount of milk chocolate has 6 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-ounce cup of coffee, by comparison, provides around 95 milligrams of caffeine. This means that eating 4 or 5 ounces of dark chocolate at once is pretty much the same as drinking a cup of coffee in terms of caffeine content.

Most people can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, says the Cleveland Clinic. This ingredient isn't necessarily harmful. On the contrary, it can boost your energy and alertness, increase fat burning, and improve physical performance. But too much of it may cause insomnia, jitters, anxiety, headaches, and other side effects. 

"Caffeine can aggravate the production of stomach acid," warns dietitian Beth Czerwony (via the Cleveland Clinic). Therefore, it's not an ideal choice for those with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Since chocolate is relatively high in caffeine, it can lead to digestive issues. On top of that, some chocolate products contain heavy metals and may pose health risks for children and pregnant women, reports As You Sow.

All in all, it's best to enjoy this treat in moderation. If you find yourself eating too much chocolate, you may be lacking certain nutrients. Stress and low blood sugar can trigger chocolate cravings, too.