Sunday, January 26, 2014

Can chocolate be good for your heart?

Seeing as our next holiday is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would take a look at chocolate.  And who doesn’t like chocolate?  Everyone says candy is bad for you – at least that is what they used to say.  And yes, candy does have added sugar and that isn’t healthy.  But can chocolate have health benefits?  Yes, it can, dark chocolate that is. 

When the manufacture dark chocolate they leave in more of the cocoa solids and add less sugar compared to milk chocolate.  This is what gives dark chocolate its stronger, rich flavor.  So what is the “healthy” ingredient in dark chocolate?  Flavenols, these are an antioxidant found in dark chocolate and cocoa.  Milk chocolate is not has healthy as it not only contains more added sugar but less of these healthy flavenols.  It is the flavenols that can help guard against heart disease, diabetes, dementia and stroke, quite a list of diseases.
Heart benefits of dark chocolate:  How does chocolate benefit our hearts?
1.        Lowers blood pressure
2.       Lowers cholesterol
3.       Improve the cells lining our heart and blood vessels
Brain benefits of dark chocolate:
1.        Learning and memory – dark chocolate flavenols accumulate in our brain, in the areas of memory and learning.  Researchers believe eating dark chocolate and getting the flavenols over a long period of time can actually be protective against our brain declining, or “cognitive decline”. 
What to buy?  The darker the chocolate the better for your health.  The researchers studying chocolate used chocolate containing 70% cocoa.
Ingredients – look for cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla.  Avoid chocolate with palm, coconut oil or other fats. 
Portions – keep them small as chocolate has calories and fat. One ounce of chocolate has about 168 calories and provides 12 grams of fat. 
Image Source:   Chocolate heart

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