It's been a terrible week but there was a brief window—in between pandemic and war concerns— where news briefly returned to food.
I wanted to highlight that. Remember, before the pandemic, when people really wanted to read about—and argue over—whether specific foods are healthy or not? Eggs, coffee, wine, and, especially, chocolate. Every week there was a popular story about a "new study that says chocolate may be good for you ... coming up after the break."
(And one of the anchors would say something like, "Mm, don't mind if I do!" And the other anchor would laugh, as if that were ... a joke?)
It's just a fun and trivial news story—to some. To others it's truly vexing as they're getting mixed messages while working to keep a healthy relationship to food.
Especially people living with diabetes or heart disease. Not trivial at all.
To cut to the point: The answer is, really, always the same. Every food can be a "health food" in some sense, but it depends on far more than the nutrient profile.
Sure, chocolate is not a "health food" in the old-school sense—not something anyone would suggest you treat like broccoli or Brussels sprouts and make your kids choke down their chocolate before they're allowed to leave the table.
But that's an archaic approach to nutrition. "Health foods" are better defined by our relationship to them. If it's something that brings you joy—in the anticipation, the baking, the eating, the culture around the food—those are all important elements of health to consider. For any given food, weight all the above alongside the nutritional merits—in the context of your nutritional/health goals. Then you have your answer.
It should be different for everyone. Apart from a couple extremes. Nothing is so nutritious that it's worth choking down if it makes you absolutely miserable, and you're wrenching at the table while others are trying to talk. At the other end of the spectrum, it's tough to imagine any amount of joy can make something a health food if you eat it until a diabetic coma sets in. So, find your balance. The answer to whether chocolate or cheese or any such thing is a "health food" is different for everyone, and that's the way it should be.
If you want to break down your stance on chocolate yet further, Sally Wadyka for Consumer Reports via The Washington Post offers a pretty comprehensive guide. Among the advice, dark chocolate is overall more nutrient-dense than some other desert options, if you're on the fence:
Point being, the health value of any food is also relative to what the other options are. Like every choice in life.
It also explains that the fabled flavonols in dark chocolate—, which seem to have some transient effect on blood pressure (though not definitely in ways that will prolong your life or prevent disease)—aren't present in meaningful quantities in chocolate unless you eat pounds of it at a time. And eating any food at that scale is going to raise other issues. If you insist on pursuing high doses of flavonols, you can get them in other ways, like fresh fruit and supplements, if that's your thing.
Okay, that was nice to talk about food for a minute.