YES, you read that right.
In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to the health benefits of chocolate. But it’s not just any type of chocolate—certain forms of chocolate are better for your health than others. The determining factor is the cocoa content—70% or higher. If you aren’t sure about which chocolate is “healthy,” look for bars with:
• 70% cocoa (or more)
• Unprocessed on the label
So, what is in chocolate that makes it good for you?
Dark chocolate is a good source of cocoa phenols, a group of important antioxidants also known as flavonoids. Less processed, or darker, chocolates tend to have higher levels of flavonoids. It is the addition of ingredients such as sugar and fat (and caramel and nougat—all that other good stuff!) that makes most chocolate bars not healthy. It’s not the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from the cacao bean, is very nutritious. It can provide many health benefits, including helping to reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.
What exactly are some of the health benefits?
Cocoa has many potential heart-health benefits. It may help:
• Lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
• Reduce the risk for blood clots
• Increase blood flow to the arteries
• Lower high blood pressure
In addition to health benefits related to your heart, cocoa can also boost your mood, boost cognitive performance, and provide important minerals, such as calcium and potassium. Flavonoids are also being studied for the role they play in helping to both prevent cancer and reduce the growth of cancer cells.
So keep enjoying your chocolate…guilt free!
Rita Williams, MS, CHES
Senior Health Educator, Health Education