Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

This wonderful, sweet, delicious food is credited for being a comfort food, soothing, and for some, a "guilty pleasure", but should we be feeling guilty? Is your mouth watering as much as mine as you look at the picture above?
In a recent publication, I found the following interesting information:
"If you eat a small portion of dark chocolate each day, you reduce your risk of getting a heart attack or stroke, say US scientists in a new study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. [I will add that dark means very dark, like baker's chocolate, or the highest percentage of cacao you can get.  This is also helpful for those of us who are lactose intolerant, as there is less milk in the chocolate].
The researchers found that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids. Flavonoids come from plants and are found in pure chocolate such as in cocoa or dark chocolate (baker's chocolate). Flavonoids improve the function of blood vessels and prevent the build up of plaque on artery walls, part of the circulatory system. It was pointed out that commercial chocolate sold as milk chocolate has very little, if any, pure cacao present in the commercial product. Choose wisely when you purchase."
Another article prepared by the Donsbach Foundation states that "we find that chocolate has twice the antioxidants of green tea, is a natural anti-stress drink (if you drink your chocolate in hot cocoa form) and is an effective cough syrup. The article suggests using "pure cocoa without sugar, mix with hot milk or hot water, add two tablespoons of honey" to make one of the best cough suppressants available.

Some "chocoholics" who just couldn't give up their favorite treat have inadvertently done their fellow chocolate lovers - and science - a big favor. 

A recent study at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was focused on blood platelets and blood clots. The study participants, some of whom were fond of eating chocolate, were given a list of foods to avoid - the list included chocolate. It seems that some of them ended up indulging their cravings for chocolate during the study. Amazingly, their indulgence led to researchers to an important discovery which is believed to be the first of its kind. 

Through biochemical analysis, the researchers are now able to explain why just a few squares of chocolate a day can reduce the risk of heart attack death in some men and women by almost 50%. It turns out that the chocolate decreases the tendency of platelets to clot in narrow blood vessels. "What these chocolate 'offenders' taught us is that the chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack," says Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health. Becker cautions that her work is not intended as a prescription to gobble up large amounts of chocolate candy, which often contains diet-busting amounts of sugar, butter and cream. But as little as 2 tablespoons a day of dark chocolate - the purest form of the candy, made from the dried extract of roasted cocoa beans - may be just what the doctor ordered. 


Updated 1/17/13

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IMAGE & INFORMATION SOURCE CREDIT: Unless otherwise noted, images were received from Wholefood Farmacy as part of an email educational series. Certain posts contain information from that educational series with personal insights added. All such information is used with permission.


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