Chocolate Health Benefits, Chocolate and Health

chocolateChocolate Health Benefits: Is it Too Good to Be True?
Chocolate has been in the news lately, thanks to a growing number of studies which link it to improved cardiovascular health. While more research is needed, experts believe the source of the health benefits stem from flavonoids within the cocoa bean. Found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins. They also appear to offer protective benefits to humans by providing “antioxidant” power.
Chocolate and Health
Experts believe antioxidants protect the body’s cells from oxidation related to free radicals produced by environmental contaminants and normal bodily functions. Without an adequate number of antioxidants, these free radicals can cause damage to the blood vessels and critical organs. Because it is very rich in flavonoids, dark chocolate may help ward off cardiovascular damage. At the same time, research suggests chocolate may also improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure; improving blood flow; and by making blood platelets less prone to clotting. Some research has also linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of stroke, diabetes and heart attack.
Is All Chocolate Healthy?
Before you grab an ordinary commercially-produced chocolate bar, it’s important to understand that not all chocolate contains high amounts of flavanols. Because cocoa has a very strong natural pungent taste, manufacturers use various processing techniques to make it more enjoyable. Unfortunately, this processing eliminates a large amount of chocolate’s antioxidant power, while infusing it with sugar, fat and other ingredients that improve taste.
Choosing the Right Type
To reap the most health benefits, choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate and look for cocoa powder that has not been treated with an alkali (Dutch processing). Additionally, to avoid weight gain, limit your consumption to about an ounce a day. This will provide you with a powerful antioxidant punch without causing your waistline to expand. Many people choose to consume cocoa instead of chocolate by adding a small amount to their morning oats, yogurt or low-fat milk.
If you’re not a fan of chocolate, you can also get healthy flavanols from a variety of other foods and beverages, including green tea, apples, cranberries, onions, peanuts, red wine and other fruits and vegetables.

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