For the last column of 2011 I want to share some good news – chocolate is good for your heart! Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, contains flavanol, an antioxidant flavonoid which, among other benefits, protects the heart from free radical damage. Epidemiological studies have suggested that chocolate may be beneficial for the heart and a 2010 study supports this hypothesis.
The study looked at nearly 5,000 Americans ages 25 to 93 who were participating in a Family Heart Study. Use of chocolate was assessed through a questionnaire. After adjusting for known risk factors, those who had chocolate 4 or more times a week had only 43% as many incidents (57% lower) of coronory heart disease (CHD) as those who reported eating none. It definitely wasn’t the sugar though – participants who had non-chocolate candy had a 49% higher incidence of CHD.
Other benefits of dark chocolate:
• lowers blood pressure
• lowers cholesterol
• may prevent cancer (research is looking at pentameric procyanidin, a compound found in chocolate which stops cell reproduction in tumors)
• thins the blood and prevents the formation of blood clots
• releases endorphins in the brain and elevates your mood.
A few words of caution: the calories in the added sugar and fat can be significant. The caffeine and theobromine may be addictive (is that a bad thing?). Chocolate is known to be a migraine trigger. And chocolate contains arginine which should be avoided when fighting or preventing virus infections like herpes.
For some reason I have a sudden craving for almond bark! I think I’ll pop across the hall and buy a bag. The hard part is to make it last all week instead of eating it all at once. Enjoy the holidays! Back in two weeks.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.