Are there Really Health Benefits from Eating Dark Chocolate?

Today is Valentine’s Day and for many of us, that means flowers and chocolate. While I’m huge into making a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, I’ve never said no to chocolate. My husband knows that I’m happy with flowers (but there’s no need for roses), but that the real way to my heart is with delicious dark chocolate.

Plus, the purported health benefits of eating dark chocolate help erase some of the guilt associated with enjoying it so much. Indeed, there are numerous studies out there that indicate that eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day might be good for you.

Health Benefits Associated with Dark Chocolate

There are a number of studies out there that indicate that dark chocolate might be good for you. Of course, the literature on medicine is always changing, and it might not always be this way, but there are some indications that a small amount of dark chocolate each day might decrease your risk of:

  • Stroke
  • Inflammation in the blood
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

One of the keys is that dark chocolate contains flavonoids. These antioxidants are thought to help help prevent cell damage that can lead to a variety of chronic and terminal ailments. Cacao seeds are thought to contain flavonoids, and chocolate is made from these plants, and that means that chocolate might have certain health benefits — although the actual effects might be small. (But dark chocolate, in moderation, probably won’t hurt.)

It Has to Be Dark Chocolate

It’s important to understand, though, that you have to eat dark chocolate in order to get the health benefits. This is because the flavonoids are reduced in types of chocolate that have been processed to the point where added sugar and milk remove bitter flavonoid compounds from the chocolate. Eating milk chocolate has almost no benefits, and white chocolate isn’t true chocolate at all.

Look for chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the higher the number of flavonoids. Natural, unsweetened cocoa powder is a great choice because it has a large number of flavonoids. Additionally, cocoa in this form is low in calories as well as being high in flavonoids. As you add more sugar to sweeten, though, and as milk is added, the calorie count goes up — and so does the amount of less healthy compounds.

Don’t Use it as an Excuse to Over Indulge

The real danger, though, is the possibility of over-indulging in your chocolate, using the excuse that it’s “healthy.” Studies indicate that limiting yourself to no more than an ounce of chocolate a day is wise — especially if you aren’t eating dark chocolate. Additionally, you shouldn’t let your enjoyment of chocolate keep you from eating other healthy foods, like produce and whole grains. Chocolate isn’t a replacement for other important sources of nutrients.

You can prolong your enjoyment of chocolate by taking the time to savor your small piece. Instead of eating your chocolate quickly this Valentine’s Day, eat it slowly, savoring the flavors. This can help a little bit go a long way.

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