by Lourdes Castro
Eat your chocolate ... it's good for you. This may sound like it came straight from a scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s true. Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of Nutrition published studies that suggested chocolate compounds have modest "beneficial effects on specific factors linked to heart disease."
If you are wondering what type of chocolate compounds they are referring to, we’ll have to look at how chocolate is made. Cocoa beans are harvested, crushed, and dried. The resulting cocoa is then processed to remove the naturally occurring pungent flavor it possesses. This pungent flavor is produced courtesy of a substance called a flavonoid.
Flavonoids are naturally occurring substances found in plant-based foods and are recognized as providing health effects. Red wine, tea, and cranberries contain them. The more flavonoids, the more benefits to one’s health.
|However, the more chocolate is processed, the less pungent flavor it possesses, and the less flavonoids it will contain. Therefore, you can make the assumption that the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the better it will be for you.
So what are the heart health benefits we are talking about? The flavonoids found in dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants, help decrease platlet activation (aka blood clots), and help the blood vessels relax.
Now that we are in the midst of the holiday season – go ahead and enjoy a nice piece of solid dark chocolate (nuts, caramel, and marshmallows will contribute counterproductive sugar and calories). But keep the portion modest as the serving size needed to achieve the health benefits has yet to be determined.