Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but chocolate hasn’t gained the status of health food quite yet. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, a number of health benefits may be associated with this delicious treat. Now, chocolate’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice.
Chocolate is made from tropical cacao tree seeds. Its earliest use dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica. After the Europeans discovered America, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded.
Chocolate has become well-known among millions who enjoy it, thanks to its unique, rich, and sweet taste. Unfortunately, it is true that it contains high fat and sugar content. Its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.
Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols — which are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate — also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.
In addition, some research has linked its consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. But more research is needed to confirm these results.
In the meantime, if you want to add it to your diet, do so in moderation. Why? Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. And too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
On the other hand, cocoa itself is low in sugar and fat while offering potential health benefits. If you enjoy the sweet flavor, add plain cocoa to your low-fat milk or even into you morning oats.