It turns out that chocolate has plenty of attributes that make it heart-healthy — the darker the chocolate, the better.

“Chocolates are a guilty pleasure for many people around the world, but there’s nothing to feel bad about if you’re eating the right kind. Milk chocolate is the type that most people eat, but it is dark chocolate that is better for your health. The latter contains less sugar and is rich in beneficial nutrients, which is why many people now consider it to be a superfood. The darker the chocolate, the better it is for your health since this means that it has more cocoa and, therefore, more nutrients. One of the organs that greatly benefit from eating dark chocolate is the heart.”  – Chocolate.news

Dark chocolate is good for your cardiovascular health!

Because it contains heart protective antioxidants called flavonols, dark chocolate has been shown to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve blood flow to the heart
  • Lower “bad” LDL cholesterol
  • Promote feelings of relaxation and well-being

 

Some Fun Facts and Light Reading About the Heath Benefits of Chocolate:

  • Cocoa butter is a naturally occurring plant fat from cocoa beans. Cocoa butter does not raise cholesterol even though it is high in saturated fat. Cocoa butter contains 35 percent stearic acid (a saturated fat), 35 percent oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat), 25 percent palmitic acid (a saturated fat), 3 percent linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fat) and 2 percent other fat.
  • Stearic acid is an unusual saturated fatty acid because it does not raise cholesterol like other saturated fats, which are mostly from animal sources. After absorption, stearic acid is rapidly converted to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that does not raise cholesterol.
  • Chocolate is very concentrated in a type of antioxidant called flavanols. Dark chocolate is more concentrated in flavanols than milk chocolate, since milk chocolate is “diluted” with milk. Flavanols from chocolate decrease inflammation, reduce platelet activity, improve immune function and expand arteries, which increases blood flow.
  • Epicatechin, a type of flavanol found in high concentrations in chocolate, can relax blood vessels and improve blood pressure.
  • Manufacturing processes and alkalization can change the flavanol content of chocolate. Mars, Inc. has a proprietary method of processing cocoa beans so that the natural levels of flavanols are retained in their chocolate products. These products are labeled with the Cocoapro™ mark.
  • Hot cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or tea. Hot cocoa releases more antioxidants than what is found in cold chocolate milk.
  • Cocoa powder is high in several minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals in particular are beneficial for preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Dark chocolate also contains fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, and is more concentrated in the above minerals and fiber than milk chocolate.
  • For the most health benefits, purchase chocolate that contains 70 percent or more cocoa and few if any other additives. Caramel, nuts, marshmallows, etc. just add more calories and dilute the health benefit of the dark chocolate.
  • Healthy dark chocolate should only contain the following ingredients: chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and vanilla.

Of course, as with anything, enjoy in moderation. You can have dark chocolate a few times per week (~1 ounce), but don’t forget to include other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries in your diet!  Also, check your dark chocolate labels to make sure 60-70% Cacao. This has an optimal mix of sugar and flavonols.

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