Are you a chocolate lover? If you are, we’ve got some great news for you (and just in time for the holidays!). Studies show that eating organic and unprocessed dark chocolate may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and can help reduce cardiometabolic disorders such as hypertension, abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides and elevated fasting glucose. Dark chocolate has biochemical properties that decrease the clumping of platelets which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be potentially fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, which results in a heart attack. When organic and unprocessed dark chocolate is eaten in healthy doses, it mimics the effects of aspirin. In addition, other research studies found that a flavonoid compound called epicatechin, found in dark chocolate, may help protect your brain after a stroke by increasing the cellular signals that are known to shield nerve cells from damage.
Before you go and binge on your favorite chocolate treat, be wary! Not all chocolate is created equal—the health benefits from “chocolate” are specific to organic and unprocessed dark chocolate and raw cacao, which contain high levels of antioxidants. Processing the cacao causes it to lose its nutritional value. Milk chocolate has little to no antioxidants, meaning that it does not share any of the nutritional value that unprocessed dark chocolate and raw cacao have. The milk also works to negate the chocolate’s antioxidants properties, and milk chocolate is typically loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners. Even more disturbingly, some chocolate may be contaminated with lead when it is processed. To get the full effects that chocolate can offer, be sure to stick with the real cacao!
Now that you know the health benefits of chocolate (or really unprocessed dark chocolate and raw cacao), and which types of chocolate to avoid, allow yourself to indulge! Remember, 5-7 grams of dark chocolate a day (about half a bar per week) is the perfect amount to satisfy your sweet tooth and to defend youself against cardiovascular disease.