Chocolate: Take a Bite for Health?
Crave chocolate? Your addiction could have unexpected health benefits. Research shows that consuming cocoa may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improve blood flow.
Flavanols in cocoa are the real health superstars. In some studies, eating flavanol-rich cocoa products (such as dark chocolate) has been associated with a lower risk for heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
The more natural cocoa in a product, the more flavanols it contains. But because processing can reduce cocoa’s flavanol content, researchers often use special versions of cocoa and chocolate. So we don’t yet know the exact health benefits of commercially available chocolate.
However, one report analyzed 19 separate studies and found that cocoa flavanol may have a positive effect on your body no matter how you ingest it—via cocoa products, chocolate, or cocoa flavanol supplements.
Darker Is Better
Unfortunately, the sugar, fat, and milk often found in chocolate add calories and diminish cocoa’s nutritional punch. Look for plain, dark chocolate with the highest cocoa content you can find—at least 70 percent. What’s best? Cocoa and chocolate made from cocoa marked non-alkalized. Alkalizing, or “Dutching,” steals nutrients.