Most of us dread eating things that are supposed to be good for our health (do you remember being forced to eat your greens when you were a kid?). But what if we told you that you could actually improve your heart health by eating chocolate?
According to Mee Young Hong, PhD, associate professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at San Diego State University, chocolate has remarkable benefits to your heart. But it’s important to be picky about the type of chocolate you consume because dark chocolate is a clear winner over white chocolate when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels and improving cholesterol.
Pick Dark Chocolate Over White Chocolate
Pure, unprocessed cocoa that hasn’t been heavily processed with sugar and preservatives is actually quite healthy because it is loaded with compounds called flavonols, which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate contains up to 70% of cocoa solids whereas white chocolate has no cocoa solids at all. In her study, Dr. Hong and her team assigned 31 men and women 1.7 ounces of dark, white, or “bloomed” dark chocolate daily for 15 days. Bloomed chocolate is chocolate that has been melted, but stuck back in the refrigerator to reharden. Dr. Hong wanted to test this type of chocolate to see if blooming affected the health properties of the chocolate. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the participants who ate dark chocolate, compared to the white chocolate eaters, had:
- Lower blood sugar because cocoa helps the body use insulin more effectively
- Improved good HDL cholesterol
- Decreased bad LDL cholesterol
Results were consistent even for the people who ate bloomed dark chocolate.
Additional Research Sweetens the Deal
A similar study conducted by scientists in Germany found that dark chocolate may also help lower blood pressure, again due to cocoa’s antioxidant capabilities that support the arteries and circulation. But just because the results look promising, it’s no reason to overindulge out on chocolate (remember, most store-brand chocolate is packed with sugar and calories!). You can, however, reward yourself every so often with a bar of dark chocolate to brighten up your mood—and your heart.
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- Serafini, M. Nature, Aug. 28, 2003; vol 424: p 1013. U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory.
- Doheny, K. “Choose Dark Chocolate for Health Benefits:Dark Chocolate, but Not White, Can Improve Cholesterol and Blood Sugar, Experts Find.”Apr. 24, 2012;https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20120424/pick-dark-chocolate-health-benefits?ecd=wnl_day_042812.