Health Benefits of Chocolate
There isn’t a better way to welcome February than talking about chocolate’s health benefits.
Many people will give loved ones a bit of chocolate for Valentine’s Day. But is chocolate good for you? Let’s take a look.
For Optimal Health Benefits, Eat Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has many health benefits and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. There are many healthy ways to incorporate a small amount of dark chocolate into your lifestyle, so find what works for you.
Dark chocolate is a promising source of powerful antioxidants, particularly the flavonol epicatechin. Flavonols are plant compounds that have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties and provide protection against cellular damage caused by free radicals. Dark chocolate has been extensively researched, with numerous studies highlighting its potential health benefits.
Consuming dark chocolate may offer a range of positive effects, including promoting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, and improving cognitive function. Given the promising findings, eating dark chocolate may be beneficial for individuals seeking to enhance their overall health and well-being.
Here are a few ways research shows that dark chocolate can benefit you:
- Increased heart health
- Improved brain function and mood
- Anti-inflammatory effects
Increased Heart Health
Eating dark chocolate has been linked to a reduction in blood pressure, a lowered risk of clotting, and an increase in circulation to the heart. These effects have the potential to lower the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and death from heart disease.
Note: All chocolate contains some cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation. Saturated fats tend to raise LDL levels and an increase in LDL levels increases the risk of heart disease.
Improves Brain Function and Mood
Dark chocolate boasts several significant health benefits, including enhancing brain function. It is believed that the chemical compounds present in chocolate stimulate cognitive function while positively modulating mood swings. These compounds improve blood flow to the brain, thereby enhancing cognitive function. The positive effect on mood makes dark chocolate an excellent choice for individuals seeking to boost their mental and emotional well-being.
Free radicals are generated through metabolic processes within the human body. Free radicals have the potential to inflict damage on otherwise healthy cells, causing a host of health issues. However, the consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to reduce this unnecessary cell damage. This is primarily attributed to the presence of antioxidants in dark chocolate, which actively remove free radicals from the body and provide protection against premature aging and the development of cancer.
The antioxidants found in chocolate can also be found in black grapes, cherries, and green tea.
Types of Chocolate
Dark chocolate, commonly called semi-sweet chocolate, bitter, or bittersweet chocolate, has a minimum cocoa content of 35% to be classified as such. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more favorable the chocolate is for consumption. Opting for chocolate containing 70% to 85% cocoa is recommended for maximum health benefits.
Unadulterated dark chocolate offers the most significant advantages, and therefore, it is advisable to avoid chocolates with fillings unless they comprise nuts or dried or fresh fruits.
It is essential to remember that a little goes a long way when consuming dark chocolate, and it is recommended that no more than 1 oz. is consumed daily. To prevent weight gain, be mindful of calorie intake and adjust consumption accordingly.
When it comes to milk chocolate, the regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulate that milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 10% cocoa and 12% dry milk solids. The remaining ingredients typically include cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier, and vanilla or other flavorings.
However, it is crucial to note that milk chocolate generally contains higher sugar and fat levels than dark chocolate. Consequently, you should eat milk chocolate in moderation. Read the ingredients list on the package to ensure an understanding of the product’s contents.
White chocolate is a byproduct of chocolate that is composed of a minimum of 20% cocoa butter and upwards of 55% sugar, in addition to milk solids, lecithin, vanilla, and other flavorings. It is advised to consume this derivative sparingly or abstain from it entirely due to its high concentrations of sugar and fat, which do not provide substantial nutritional benefits.
South Denver Cardiology Can Help You Maintain a Heart Healthy Diet
At South Denver Cardiology Associates, we’re committed to helping you establish a heart healthy lifestyle, and an important component of that is your diet. We offer nutritional consulting services to help you adopt heart healthy eating practices. Our team of registered dietitians will work with you to develop a personalized nutrition plan that will help prevent health issues and slow the progression of existing heart conditions.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. South Denver Cardiology serves patients in Denver, Littleton and the surrounding areas of Colorado.
Blog written by, Jennifer Leone, RDN, South Denver Cardiology
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