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Chocolate and your Heart

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

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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