Choosing Healthy Chocolate

ChocolateWith Valentine’s Day almost here and Women’s Heart Health Day this month, many women are wondering how they can have their Valentine’s Day Chocolate and promote heart health at the same time. Well we have some good news for you, if you are willing to choose just the right chocolate!

Medical science has gone beyond folklore to investigate whether there are indeed health benefits to chocolate. Chocolate contains a group of phytonutrients called Flavanols. Phytonutrients are natural substances that are not vitamins or minerals but still have very valuable health-promoting properties. These flavanols, especially one called epicatechin, have been found to have several cardiovascular, health-enhancing effects.

Several studies have shown that chocolate modestly improves the function of the coronary arteries of the heart, while raising the good cholesterol and lowering the bad. Other studies document modest improvements in blood pressure. One study has even also shown modest improvements in memory.

However, not all chocolates contain the same amount of flavanols. It turns out that dairy- free, dark chocolate has by far the most health-promoting properties. Also, the chocolate with lower amounts of sugar in it performed the best. For those hot cocoa lovers, the best performing ones were also dairy-free and not processed with “alkali”. For those still looking for a sweeter chocolate, products sweetened with natural sugar alternatives such as LoHan, also call monk fruit, and stevia are reasonable alternatives.

A couple of caveats though. Chocolate does have plenty of calories. It is also high in fat, some of which is saturated. Overall though, when the right kind is chosen and eaten with discretion, most people can have their chocolate and a healthy heart too. Enjoy!