Valentine’s Day may have passed but it’s American Heart Month til the end of February, so we’re still talking about that chocolate!
Is there any health benefit from eating chocolate?
There are different kinds of chocolate:
White – Cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, an emulsifier, and vanilla, or other flavorings (0% cacao)
Milk/Semisweet – Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, an emulsifier, and vanilla or other flavorings (10-34% cacao)
Dark – Chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier, and vanilla or other flavorings (35-84% cacao)
Source: National Confectioners Association
* The compounds in chocolate associated with health benefits are called flavanols – these are a type of antioxidant.
* Flavanols are present in chocolate liquor and cocoa powder.
* Actual levels of flavanols can vary depending upon the recipe, cocoa beans used, processing method, and storage and handling conditions. % cacao doesn’t always indicate flavanol content, though higher percentages will be more likely to have more flavanols
Studies have linked dark chocolate to favorable heart health outcomes, but it’s still unclear how much you’d have to eat to get those benefits. Plus, dark chocolate is high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if you take in more calories than you need. Chocolate also contains saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol.
So how do you balance the pros and cons of chocolate?
1. Choose chocolate with at least 70% cacao
2. Enjoy in small amounts – stick to 1-2 squares daily (~150 calories)
3. Pair with fresh fruit for a double dose of antioxidant action
Chocolate for Heart Health
1. Choose chocolate with >70% cacao
2. 1-2 squares daily (~150 calories)
3. Pair with fresh fruit