Expert Q&A

Chocolate: Why Is It Good for Your Heart?

Chocolate is supposed to be heart healthy, but it has a lot of fat. So what makes chocolate healthy?

-Constance from Alabama

Just about everyone loves chocolate. Wouldn't it be great if something most people really like to eat was actually good for us?

You know fruit is healthful. Well, cocoa beans are part of the fruit of the cocao tree. This particular fruit contains a class of nutrients called flavonols which:

  • Improve the ability of arteries to deliver oxygen
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decrease the tendency for platelets to form blood clots.

It is likely these actions can reduce the risk of heart attack.

Flavonols may have antioxidant properties. Oxidation is the step that enables cholesterol to stick firmly to arteries. Anything that inhibits oxidation may keep arteries cleaner. This has not been proven beyond doubt, but the evidence is accumulating that flavonols are very beneficial. The darker the chocolate, the greater the flavonol content. Flavonols are also found in:

Because chocolate candy is high in fat and sugar, large amounts may cause more harm than goodparticularly for those who must watch their diets. However, 1½ ounces of dark chocolate can be incorporated into a balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, and grain products.

The healthiest way to consume chocolate is the way the Aztecs did. Roasted, ground beans mixed in water or milk with a little pepper. Lacking an Aztec recipe, go for a bit of chocolate candy if you want.

For more information on eating chocolate for a healthy heart see the following article from TheDietChannel: Chocolate: Does a Chocolate A Day Keep The Cardiologist Away?

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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