According to the experts, the short answer is yes…and no! Dark chocolate, along with cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine, contains flavonoids, which are pigments that help protect plants by shielding them from environmental toxins and mitigating damage to cells. When we eat plants rich in flavonoids, we benefit from their antioxidant properties, helping our body’s cells resist damage and ward off disease.
Cocoa and chocolate contain flavanols, a type of flavonoid with antioxidant qualities proven to positively influence vascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and lowering cholesterol. But before you reach for a chocolate candy bar or serve up that slice of double-chocolate cake, think twice! Not all chocolate is created equal. Flavanols can be lost during processing, and many highly processed commercial chocolates are loaded with fat and sugar – negating any health benefits from flavanols.
Dark chocolate contains more cocoa and, therefore, more flavonoids, so choose dark over milk chocolate. Watch out for all the “extras” like caramel, marshmallow, or candy coating that can add fat and calories. Be sure that the chocolate you eat contains only naturally-occurring fats from cocoa butter (equal amounts oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids) which contains both monounsaturated and saturated fats.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, less is more when it comes to the health benefits of chocolate, so watch your serving size. While a little dark chocolate can be good, a lot of chocolate is not better! Because it’s high in calories, treat yourself to 1.6 ounces or less dark chocolate each day, and remember that healthy eating and exercise (not chocolate!) are the cornerstones of heart health.
Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/