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Chocolate & Your Heart

Posted in nutrition news on Feb 12,2012

With Valentines Day just around the corner, it seems appropriate to write a little something about … well, chocolate of course! 

Whether it’s chocolate dipped strawberries, a box of truffles, or a mocha late in place of your usual morning coffee, chances that you will consume something chocolatey on February 14th are pretty good and may even be good for your heart!

Studies have shown that about 1 oz of dark chocolate a day can significantly reduce the inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease, therefore improving heart health. The cocoa bean contains healthy plant flavanols, called polyphenols that act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Recently, Italian researchers reported a possible connection between eating dark chocolate and low levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation. These polyphenols have also been shown to help keep arteries healthy and may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

 

Cocoa naturally has a very strong, pungent taste, which comes from the flavanols. When cocoa is processed, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste. The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. Unfortunately, most commercial chocolates are highly processed, but the good news is that most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates. For now, your best choices are dark chocolate over milk chocolate (dark chocolate exhibits the greatest effects, milk chocolate fewer, and white chocolate no effects) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing. The chocolate should be at least 70 percent cocoa with limited added sugars.
Other Benefits of Dark Chocolate:
Chocolate also holds benefits apart from protecting your heart:
• stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
• contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
• contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are sometimes “feel good” stimulants

So this Valentines Day do something good for your heart and those you love by indulging in a little dark chocolate, guilt free.

If you enjoyed this topic take a look at this Harvard publication on chocolate, alcohol, and a few more of life’s pleasures: Putting the joie de vivre back into health

To learn further about the health benefits of chocolate: Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

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