You have heard the buzz: Experts say chocolate is good for you. But do you know the facts?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and, in 2008, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 430,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every 26 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one person will die from one each minute. Now chocolate, by itself, is not going to prevent these things from happening. Paying attention to a heart healthy diet can help, as can weight control, exercise, taking medications properly, and keeping regular appointments with your physician, but including a little bit of chocolate in your diet can make living more enjoyable.
Many of my female weight-loss clients have some form of chocolate in their diets, and they are very happy to find out (after my initial diet assessment) that they do not have to give it all up. Chocolate can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan, just as many other types of food, as long as it is eaten in the right portion and with moderation.
Despite the evidence that dark chocolate may be beneficial to heart health, it is important to note that a small portion of dark chocolate is not a substitute for a heart healthy eating plan if you have heart disease or a family history of it.
Consider these facts supported by recent research on chocolate and heart disease:
1.) Cocoa products contain greater antioxidant capacity and greater amounts of flavonoids per serving than all teas and red wines.
2.) The body of short-term randomized feeding trials suggests cocoa and chocolate may exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk via effects on lowering blood pressure, anti-inflammation, anti-platelet function, higher HDL (“good” cholesterol), decreased LDL oxidation (“bad” cholesterol).
3.) Studies of flavonoids suggests the flavonoid content of chocolate may reduce risk of cardiovascular mortality.
Before you grab a king-size chocolate bar at the grocery store checkout line or a slab of chocolate cake, keep in mind that when cocoa is processed it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally pungent taste (the flavonoids provide this taste). The more processing, the more flavonoids lost, so you do want to choose simple dark chocolate varieties for the most benefit as they contain the most flavonoids per calorie.
Studies have shown that small portions of dark chocolate are all that is needed for the health benefit. One study suggested that only one Hershey Kiss® daily reduced blood pressure in participants who had mildly elevated blood pressure. Other studies have shown that the benefit would occur with one ounce of dark chocolate in incorporated daily.
Here is your portion guide for choosing your daily dark chocolate dose:
Dove® dark miniatures: two to three pieces