The health benefits of chocolate are no doubt a welcome news for chocoholics. But before you indulge in a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, it is important to understand what makes chocolate healthy and what types of chocolate to choose.
Firstly, the health benefits of chocolate come from the fact that it comes from a plant, the cacao tree. Like many other plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, chocolate contains phytochemicals, which are plant-derived compounds that have health benefits.
Chocolate does contain antioxidant flavonoids that affect various physiological systems. These flavonoids are also found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as coffee, tea, and wine. The beneficial effects include dilation of blood vessels, improved blood clotting, reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure regulation of insulin levels and reduced stress. All these factors contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart attack and stroke.
The cocoa used in chocolate is the non-fat component of the cocoa bean, while cocoa butter is mostly fat. The flavonoids are found in the cocoa itself so darker chocolates like 70% dark chocolate contain more beneficial compounds than milk or white chocolate which usually has less sugar content. However, it’s important to note that not all chocolates are created equal, so it’s important to choose high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content for maximum health benefits.