In The News: Eat Chocolate for a Healthy Heart

Reader Contribution by Justine Patton
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To all of my chocolate-loving readers, I have great news. Researchers have discovered yet another reason for you to indulge in your favorite food completely guilt-free.

A study performed at the University of Cambridge in England found that chocolate can help improve heart and vascular health. The team of researchers concluded that the cocoa in chocolate contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which could reduce heart disease risk by one-third and lower the instances of sudden death resulting from a heart attack or stroke.

How much your heart benefits from the sweet depends on how much of it you eat. The study found that the more chocolate you devour, the greater your risk of cardio-metabolic disorders is reduced. Participants who consumed the most chocolate had a 37 percent lower risk of having cardiovascular problems compared with those who ate the least amount of chocolate. Those who munched the most also had a 29 percent lower incidence of stroke.

New research suggests that you can have your chocolate and eat it, too.
Photo by carando/Courtesy

This isn’t the first time chocolate has been applauded for its health benefits. The candy has long been suspected to protect the body from heart disease. Believe it or not, chocolate is actually made from plants, so it provides many of the same perks as dark vegetables. Chocolate contains flavonoids, which promote health in the same way antioxidants do. Flavonoids also help lower blood pressure and keep hormones balanced.

The taste of chocolate can also help contribute to better health. It stimulates endorphin production, which naturally makes us feel good. Also, because it contains serotonin, chocolate acts as an antidepressant, lifting our spirits and helping ward off depression. Lastly, the caffeine in chocolate can act as a pick-me-up when you’re lacking energy to give you that boost your body is craving.

It’s important to remember that while chocolate can do some great things for your body, it can also provide you with unnecessary calories and an expanded waistline. Here are a few tips to follow when deciding what kind of chocolate to snack on:

• Don’t overdo it. Chocolate is a high-calorie, high-fat food. Luckily, you don’t need much of it to reap benefits. Studies show that you need no more than about 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day.

• Go for dark chocolate. While the study at the University of Cambridge did not differentiate between milk and dark chocolate, studies show that dark chocolate contains many more antioxidants than white or milk chocolate. Dark chocolate also contains 65 percent or higher cocoa content, which is the substance that causes those heart healthy benefits.

• Look for pure chocolate. In other words, skip the caramel, nougat and other fillings. While these ingredients may taste good, they add extra calories and don’t provide any health benefits. 

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