For years we have thought of chocolate as a guilty pleasure, but chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. In moderation, dark chocolate is actually good for your heart, mood, and blood pressure.
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 nearly 8 times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries, so it really can be part of a healthy diet.
Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, as well as balance certain hormones in the body.
In fact, cocoa and chocolate products have been used as medicine in many cultures for centuries.
A small bar of dark chocolate 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 also holds benefits apart from protecting your heart:
- it tastes good
- it stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
- it contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
- it contains theobromine, caffeine, and other substances which are stimulants
Here is some more good news — some of the fats in chocolate do not impact your cholesterol. The fats in chocolate are 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid, and 1/3 palmitic acid:
- Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.
- Stearic Acid is a saturated fat but one which research shows has a neutral effect on cholesterol.
- Palmitic Acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises cholesterol and heart disease risk.
That means only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is bad for you.
Keep in mind that one bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else. Cut out other sweets or snacks, and replace them with chocolate to keep your total calories the same.
Read more online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820066/