Chocolate for Your Heart

heart health and chocolate

Is Chocolate Heart Healthy?

Valentine’s Day is a day for love and gifts. These gifts usually come in the form of big, heart shaped boxes of chocolate. For those with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or working on their heart health, this box of chocolates, although given with love, may not be the healthiest choice.

The good news is chocolate in moderation is not all that bad. In fact, chocolate can be good for you, depending on the type. The cocoa bean is loaded with a plant nutrient called flavonoids as well as antioxidants.

FlavonoidsFlavonoids are found in tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries, and nuts according to Harvard Health. Research shows that flavanols can aide vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the heart and brain, and improving blood platelets to prevent them from becoming sticky and clotting. Flavonoids also have antioxidant qualities.

AntioxidantsWhen we eat flavonoids, we also benefit from antioxidants. Antioxidants fight what scientists call free radicals. Free radicals can play a part in cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. Antioxidant chemicals help to stop or limit damage caused by free radicals.

What Types of Chocolate are Heart Healthy?

Although there can be some heart healthy benefits to chocolate, always keep in mind the type of chocolate you’re eating and moderation factors. This does not mean grab a chocolate bar every time you go to the gas station or eat the entire heart shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Not all types of chocolate are healthy. The types of chocolate that are healthy in moderation are:

CocoaCoco, as mentioned earlier, has a strong all natural taste, which comes from the flavonoids. In a majority of commercial candy bars, the plant is processed so heavily that you can no longer taste the cocoa. The less cocoa you taste, the less flavonoids are in the chocolate and the unhealthier the chocolate is. Also keep in mind to look for chocolate bars with 70% cocoa or more.

Dark ChocolateAlways be careful of the type of dark chocolate you are eating, and always eat it in moderation. Extremely processed dark chocolate with peanut butter, marshmallows and caramel is not heart healthy. However, typically dark chocolate contains more cocoa than other types of chocolate, as well as less sugars are saturated fats.

How Much Chocolate Should you Eat a Day?

When it comes to dark chocolate or cocoa, there is no scientifically recommended dose a day to keep your heart healthy. For now, the American Heart Association suggests one to two ounces a day for the general population. Keep in mind that 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate is about the size of 1/4 a cup of chocolate chips.

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