Chocolate and your Heart

Photo: Courtesy of Suet Eman

With
Halloween right around the corner, the craving for chocolate may be a healthy
one.  Researchers are now conducting
studies between women and the effects of chocolate consumption.  They have found links between chocolate
consumption and lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and in
a  recent study, a lowered risk of stroke in women.  Susanna Larsson, an Associate Professor in
the division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in
Stockholm, has been studying the diets of women in Sweden. She has noticed health
changes have been linked to chocolate.  The
potential health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, have been
widely attributed to its flavonoids. Flavonoids are the antioxidant compounds
found in cocoa that may boost the cardiovascular system.  In other studies, researchers have shown that
flavonoids can enhance blood flow by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood
pressure.  They may also inhibit clumping
of platelets and reduce inflammation, both of which contribute to
cardiovascular health.  It is also
recommended that when choosing a treat with chocolate, it is healthier to go
with dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. 
With dark chocolate, there is at least 70% cocoa; and dark chocolate has
more antioxidants and less sugar than milk chocolate.  Larsson says, “Chocolate consumption in
moderation, and preferably dark chocolate, along with high consumption of other
antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk
of stroke”.

Some
times when things seem too good to be true, that means they usually are.  Larsson is concerned about how people will
comprehend the study information. She is afraid that after receiving
information, women would begin to overload on chocolate. 

We
all should remember that moderation is the key. Chocolates are classified as
treats, and therefore they should not be incorporated into your daily diet. There
are health benefits by consuming dark chocolate. But chocolate should be eaten
in moderation, and should not be replaced with other food to get the
antioxidants your body needs. 

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