The Benefits of Chocolate
It’s hard to believe that chocolate is considered by some as a heart-healthy choice, but chocolate’s main ingredient—cocoa—seems to reduce heart disease risk factors. Cocoa beans contain flavanols, and flavanols offer antioxidant protection that reduce cell damage in heart disease. Other benefits of flavanols include improving vascular function and helping to lower blood pressure. In one study, researchers found that adults who drank a specific cocoa beverage rich in flavonols for four to six days improved their blood vessel function. And in another study, people with high cholesterol were given either a standard snack bar or a snack bar enhanced with cocoa flavanols; over 6 weeks, the results seemed to indicate that cocoa improved cholesterol levels to a greater extent than placebo.
Cocoa is also rich in magnesium, a mineral that is a critical component for heart health. Magnesium also helps to build bones and relax muscles.
Dark chocolate contains more flavanols—almost four times as many as milk chocolate—so if you want to get the most benefits from chocolate choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. But don’t forget that many chocolates include ingredients high in calories, fat and sugar.