Be Still My Heart! New Reason to Love Chocolate
Informed people know that chocolate is more than a guilty pleasure. When you eat genuine, high-cocoa-content chocolate, you actually get some health benefits. Real chocolate is loaded with active compounds called flavonoids. These compounds tend to be potent antioxidants with some highly beneficial properties.
Of course, many people still view eating chocolate as a slightly shameful indulgence. But it depends on what you’re talking about. In America, we tend to eat literally tons of inexpensive “milk” chocolate. It’s loaded with fat and sugar, and very little of the “real” cocoa that makes pure chocolate so healthful.
But you can eat good chocolate with pleasure, and take comfort in the knowledge that you’re actually doing your body a favor. That’s because real, dark chocolate is loaded with compounds that work to reduce heart disease risk factors. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Heart concluded that eating 100 grams of chocolate per day can slash one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 11%, and decrease one risk of death by 25%.
One hundred grams of high-quality chocolate is equal to slightly more than four ounces. Subjects in the study who ate the most chocolate were also significantly less likely to be diagnosed with stroke. Unfortunately, the results were based on an observational study, which means scientists can’t say for certain that eating chocolate is directly responsible for the better health outcomes. Rather, they can say with certainty that doing so appears to be associated with better health. But it seems obvious that chocolate really is beneficial. Previous studies have identified compounds in chocolate that appear to reduce inflammation in the body, for example.
Incidentally, although most studies have focused on dark chocolate, which is not adulterated with milk solids, many of the study participants reported consuming primarily milk chocolate. "Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events,” investigators wrote. And even milk chocolate may work. "This may indicate that not only flavonoids, but also other compounds, possibly related to milk constituents, such as calcium and fatty acids, may provide an explanation for the observed association.”
Chun Shing Kwok, S Matthijs Boekholdt, Marleen A H Lentjes, Yoon K Loke, Robert N Luben, Jessica K Yeong, Nicholas J Wareham, Phyo K Myint, Kay-Tee Khaw. Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women. Heart, 15 June 2015 DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050