Is chocolate good for you? You bet! While not all chocolate is created equal, there are absolutely benefits to gain if eating the right kind of chocolate. Just one of many benefits of chocolate revolves around boosted heart health and lowered heart disease risk. This is great news for all of us who would like to enjoy some chocolate without the guilt.
There are multiple reasons for chocolate’s ability to promote a healthy heart, with flavanols being just one of them. Chocolate is loaded with flavanols – these compounds are both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. The darker the chocolate, the greater the concentration of these healthful compounds.
Compared to milk chocolate or white chocolate, dark chocolate is made from much higher concentrations of the cocoa bean. If you look on a well-stocked shelf, you’ll see these dark chocolate bars listing their percentage of cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the flavanol level. Milk chocolate may have as little as 10% cocoa while dark-chocolate varieties have 50, 60, 80, 90, or even 100% cocoa.
Promoting Heart Health
One study found that compared to those eating white chocolate, individuals who ate dark chocolate reduced their “bad” cholesterol by 20% while increasing their “good” cholesterol by the same percentage. What’s the difference? The concentration of cocoa (also known as cacao) vs. the inclusion of sugar and milk.
In another recent study of Swedish women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk of heart failure by up to one-third. This study lasted 9 years and included 31,000 participants.
Finally, in an Italian study originally published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that 6.7 grams of chocolate a day can reduce inflammation that leads to heart disease.
Dark chocolate can even reduce blood pressure, albeit slightly. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that chocolate eaters experienced an average 2-point drop in systolic pressure. Even blood flow improved.
Remember that quality is everything here. Your chocolate should be slightly bitter. A chemical process that is used to de-bitter chocolate and make it more palatable can actually destroy some of the benefits. If you’re a baker, avoid using baking soda with your cocoa – t is alkaline and can actually destroy flavanols.
As one of the top antioxidant rich foods, chocolate can be good for you! When searching for chocolate, be sure to choose one with less ingredients, less added sugar, and as much cocoa as you like, can handle, or want to accustom yourself to.