Betty Garrity MPH, RD
UC San Diego Medical Center Dietetic Internship
UC San Diego Dietetic Intern
A gift from the heart that may help the heart? Recent studies suggest chocolate consumers may lower their risk of coronary heart disease. One of the primary benefits of chocolate is in the powerful antioxidants called flavanols. These compounds are also found in red wine, tea, onions and cranberries. Flavanols appear to benefit cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart and making blood less sticky, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
There is a caveat with chocolate. Milk chocolate is not associated with the potential health benefits, and you can definitely eat too much of a good thing. While studies on dark chocolate suggest positive effects on heart health, moderation is key. The more we consume, the lower the potential benefit. In addition, there are other essential elements of a healthy diet that important in preventing heart disease, such as including an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
In order to reap the cited health benefits of chocolate-based flavanols, look for dark chocolate that has a 70 percent or higher cacao content and lists cacao as its first ingredient, not sugar.