Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Heart of Darkness: Why Chocolate is Good for You

How Sweet It Is

“Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.” -Anonymous.

In recent years you might have heard rumours that chocolate is good for you. And promptly dismissed said rumours as being way too good to be true.

Well, lend me your ears, darlings. Because it’s so very true.

Much like coffee, chocolate is surprisingly full of phytonutrients like flavonoids, healthy fatty acids, polyphenols and other antioxidants.

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Translation? Health benefits for you and your loved ones. Let me count the ways:

1. Chocolate can lower your blood pressure. Several studies have demonstrated small, but significant, reductions in blood pressure when people eat chocolate regularly. In fact, when The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition pooled the results of several studies, they found that chocolate was better at lowering blood pressure than soy protein and tea (two other flavonoid-rich “superfoods”).

2. Chocolate can reduce your cholesterol. Cocoa butter contains a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy stuff found in olive oil. Research has shown that chocolate consumption can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise your HDL (good cholesterol).  

3. Chocolate can help prevent cancer. It’s because of all those antioxidants, particularly in dark chocolate.They're known to fight free radicals and chronic inflammation, processes that are linked to cancer. Some early research is showing chocolate’s promise in the cancer-fighting department, but more studies are planned to fully figure this out. 

4. Chocolate can improve your vision. Who needs carrots when you’ve got chocolate? British researchers performed a small study on healthy adults, and found that subjects’ performance on vision tests improved after eating a dark chocolate bar, as compared to a white chocolate bar. The theory: flavonoids improve blood flow to the retina and brain.

5. Chocolate can prevent heart disease: This is the biggie, the benefit that has the most solid research to back it up. Several studies have demonstrated chocolate’s heart-healthy actions: it appears to have antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects, and to improve coronary blood flow. Plus, a meta-analysis published recently in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular chocolate consumption was associated with a 37% reduction in the risk of heart disease. Seriously, it’s like the people who first linked chocolate and Valentine’s Day knew something...

6. Chocolate can prevent strokes. A Swedish study last year, of over 30,000 women, observed that women who ate the most chocolate (an average of 2.3 ounces per week) had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than those virtuous women who never or rarely ate chocolate.

So, we can prevent heart disease, cancer, and strokes...all with a little medicinal application of chocolate? Me likey.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The darker the chocolate the better—dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids than milk chocolate.

Also, you can easily overdo it on chocolate. Obviously. Chocolate does contains lots of good stuff, but it also packs a lot of calories, fat, and sugar. Read: no scarfing down an entire box of chocolate in one sitting. My advice is to be a chocolate snob. Channel your inner French woman and savour small doses of the best quality, most delicious chocolate you can find.

And remember the immortal words of Lucy (via Charles M. Schulz):

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."