Chocolate is a quick mood-booster when you’re in need of a pick-me-up or a reliable source of comfort when life lets you down. In other words, it’s the ultimate comfort food.
But, is it healthy? Well, it is. In fact, chocolate is great for your heart health! But not just any chocolate – dark chocolate, with a 70% or more of cocoa is especially good for your ticker.
What makes chocolates heart healthy
Dark chocolate made from cocoa beans, is rich in heart healthy nutrients called flavonols. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid you find in cocoa and chocolates. They are loaded with antioxidants that help your body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals. Normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke form these free radicals.
If your body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to slow the oxidation process, it can become damaged by free radicals causing an increase in “bad” cholesterol which forms plaque on the artery walls. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, flavanols help improve blood flow to the brain and heart, lower blood pressure and make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.
So, why are all chocolates not made equal?
The strong, pungent taste that comes with cocoa, comes from the flavanols. The cocoa in your favourite chocolate products, goes through several steps to reduce this taste. In these processes which include fermentation, alkalising and roasting, they remove more flavanols.
Not all chocolates contain high levels of flavanols…
This includes dark chocolate which you probably believe contains the highest levels flavanols. Recent research indicates that it all depends on how manufacturers process the dark chocolate. However, most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates. So, for now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate. You can also use cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (This is when manufacturers treat cocoa with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).