Is Chocolate Healthy?

Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.

Heart Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is good for your heart. A small bar of it everyday can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Two heart health benefits of dark chocolate are: Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. Lower Cholesterol: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent

Chocolate and Flavonoids

Flavonoids Help Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

A number of research studies have found that chocolate can provide cardiovascular health benefits, though some types of chocolate are more beneficial than others. Many of chocolate's health benefits come from flavonoids, potent plant-derived antioxidants that help the body process nitric oxide in order to facilitate healthy blood flow and prevent the clogging of arteries. Other foods such as tea, red wine, blueberries, cranberries, peanuts, apples, strawberries and a number of other fruits and vegetables also provide high concentrations of flavonoids

Flavonoids may work similarly to low-dose aspirin to prevent the clotting that impedes blood flow. While chocolate certainly should not be viewed as a substitute for aspirin for reducing the risk of cardiovascular attacks, flavonoid-rich foods can be very helpful for those who are unable to take aspirin for a variety of reasons. Flavonoids found in high concentrations in chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke: 40 grams of milk chocolate provides about 400 milligrams of antioxidants, comparable to that provided by a glass of red wine. Dark chocolate provides 2-4 times as many antioxidants.

Chocolate and Relaxation

There are some indications that chocolate can also induce relaxation. Small amounts of the amino acid Tryptophan may decrease anxiety by increasing serotonin levels. A release of endorphins in response to chocolate consumption may reduce the body's sensitivity to pain as well. These benefits will be minor, however, as the quantities are quite small.

Cocoa Butter and You

Because cocoa butter naturally contains saturated fat, many people wonder how it will affect their cholesterol levels. Stearic acid is the predominate saturated fat in cocoa butter. Stearic acid is unique and research has shown that it has an overall neutral effect on blood cholesterol. In fact, studies indicate that eating chocolate on a daily basis, without an increase in calories in overall diet, may have no effect on blood cholesterol levels.