The short answer is yes. Chocolate contains nutrients which have been shown to lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. But not all chocolate has these benefits.
When looking at the health benefits, dark chocolate wins over white. Dark chocolate contains compounds known as flavonoids. The flavonoids found in chocolate have been shown to improve the function of cells lining blood vesels. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that dark chocolate, not white, was effective in lowering blood pressure.
Choose your chocolate wisely. Chocolate that has undergone substantial processing or been treated to reduce the acidity (Dutch processing) will have lower amounts of heart healthy compounds. Many manufacturers are working to improve chocolate processing to help retain the healthy constituents.
Keep in mind that chocolate carries quite a load of calories. It doesn’t take a whole bar every day, but rather just a small amount to gain the benefits. Moderation is key, along with a healthy lifestyle. And remember that flavonoids are also found in fruits and vegetables, so you can really do without the chocolate… but then, that wouldn’t be very much fun.
If you find yourself in the Portland area be sure to visit Cacao, a place that really knows their chocolate. You can buy it by the bar or by the mug (which I highly recommend).
Do you have a favorite chocolate shop? Share with us.