The Benefits of Chocolate
Monday, February 07, 2011

The Benefits of Chocolate
Valentine's Day is just around the corner and gifts of chocolate may be coming your way! With all the recent publicity surrounding the benefits of chocolate, you may be wondering: is chocolate actually good for you or more of a no-no food?

Healthy chocolate sounds like everyone's "dream-come-true" food, but it has definitely not gained the status of "health food" yet! Still, chocolate's reputation – especially dark chocolate – has risen in recent years and a growing number of studies suggest it can be heart-healthy.

Cocoa – chocolate's main ingredient – may reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans, have been shown to reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Dark chocolate contains more flavanols than milk chocolate, making it the better choice for health benefits. Be aware that most of the research about chocolate in recent years has come from short -term and uncontrolled studies -- so don't use these studies as an excuse to overdo your chocolate consumption!
Because commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories, it can contribute to weight gain. And weight gain, in turn, increases one's risk factors for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

When you do want to indulge in a chocolately treat, your best choice is dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Limit yourself to no more than three ounces (85 grams) a day, the amount the studies show to be heart-helpful. This amount equals a hefty 450 calories, so a trade-off might be in order. In other words, you may want to cut calories in other areas or increase your activity to make sure that weight gain doesn't become a "side effect" of this sweet treat. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Source: Mayo Foundation