How Dark Chocolate Benefits Your Heart, According to Research
While we all love the occasional Moon Pie, praline, and Chick-o-Stick, when we do partake, it's not for our health. Dark chocolate, though, both tastes good and is good for you, which just may be the sweetest news yet.
The secret to dark chocolate's health benefits are the cocoa solids, which contain compounds known as flavanols, which can help protect the heart, according to the smarty pants at Harvard. . Sadly, milk chocolate only has a few flavanols, and white chocolate has none. At high levels, cocoa flavanols have been shown to help lower blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax and improving blood flow.
Research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a bite of dark chocolate a day helped drop levels of hypertension from 86 percent to 68 percent in participants after they ate about 6 grams of dark chocolate per day for 18 weeks. (There are worse experiments to take part in!)
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Dark chocolate has another naturally heart-healthy chemical compound, too: Polyphenols. They can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL), according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
While dark chocolate is definitely good for your heart, it's good for the rest of your body, too. It has been shown to boost brain power, potentially lower the risk of diabetes, it can improve your eyesight, help protect your skin against harmful UV rays, and reduce inflammation.
In another delightful twist, dark chocolate can also help lower your body mass index, that measurement that your doctor uses to determine if your weight is healthy or not. According to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, people who consumed small quantities of dark chocolate a few times a week—and exercised on occasion—had lower BMI than their abstemious counterparts.
Be aware, though, that as the downers at CNN point out, there can be too much of a good thing. Be mindful of the amount of dark chocolate you're eating, as scarfing down too many bites can lead to an unbalanced diet with too much fat, sugar and calories, which could negate the health benefits. That said, dark chocolate makes you feel full more quickly than other snacks and you may find just a few bites will quell your sweet tooth.
So, when Valentine's Day comes around, consider picking up a heart-shaped box of dark chocolate to truly show you care for your sweetheart's heart.