Chocolate lovers rejoice! Recent studies have proven that dark chocolate is an effective way to help protect your heart from developing heart disease. People who eat dark chocolate have a lower rate of heart attacks, heart failure, and death from heart related incidents. And there’s more good news, to get the heart healthy benefits you can eat a lot of chocolate – 3.5 ounces. That’s more than two Hershey’s chocolate bars!
That’s great, where can I place my order for a lifetime supply of my favorite chocolate bar?
Not so fast. Just because chocolate is good for you doesn’t mean you can rush out and suddenly eat is at leisure. The studies that have been conducted have tested dark chocolate, which is higher in cocoa. Typical chocolate bars contain lots of bad things that tend to offset the good stuff: sugar and fat to name a few.
In order to get the heart healthy benefits you’ll want to aim to eat chocolate that is higher in cocoa content.
Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant. These play an important role in cellular repair from environmental damage. In the case of your heart, they can repair cells damaged by diabetes or heart disease and help to keep it strong.
These help the body resist free radicals that are released through toxins found in the environment and exposed to your body. Air pollution and smoking are two of the most common causes of free radicals. The more free radicals in a person’s body the more plaque that tends to develop on their arteries.
These are the two main flavonoids found in dark chocolate. They help to decrease blood pressure, increase blood flow to the brain, and decrease blood’s “stickiness” so platelets can better clot.
Although chocolate does have fat in it, that fat isn’t necessarily bad. That’s because the fat found in chocolate includes heart healthy oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. And while stearic and palmitic acids are also found in chocolate (two fats linked to heart disease), the stearic acid has been found to functional in a more neutral way. Palmitic acid is, however, linked to heart disease.
Now, just because chocolate is good for you doesn’t mean you can go on an all out binge. Avoid chocolates with tons of additives, like dark chocolate caramels or dark chocolate raspberry ganache. These treats are delicious, but they’re fatty and sugary enough that they counteract the positives of the antioxidants found in chocolate.
The best way to keep your heart healthy is to eat a diet low in saturated fats, exercise regularly, and occasionally treat yourself to things like chocolate and red wine to reduce stress. You’ll find that in combination these keep your heart healthy and your mind sane because you’re getting occasional treats.