Valentine’s Day is almost here and that usually means lots of chocolate. There’s no need to feel guilty about indulging in the sweet stuff because it has health benefits that can help protect our cardiovascular systems and reduce inflammation. Of course, moderation is key because overdoing it can counteract those benefits. Abbie Gellman, a registered dietitian and chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, explains the good-for-us stuff we get from eating chocolate.
- Chocolate is rich in antioxidants – It’s full of flavonoid antioxidants, which have been shown to have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk. Research has found these flavonoids can protect against damage to the lining of the arteries and Gellman says they also work in a similar way a low dose of aspirin does to prevent blood platelets from forming blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. She recommends high-quality, semi-sweet dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, like 70 to 85%.
- It helps fight inflammation and regulate blood pressure – Chocolate contains a significant amount of arginine, an amino acid that’s required to produce nitric oxide, according to Gellman. Nitric oxide helps to regulate blood flow, inflammation and blood pressure because it causes blood vessels to dilate.
- Heart health benefits – Chocolate has small amounts of two plant sterols, sitosterol and stigmasterol. Gellman explains these plant sterols prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol, which may lead to better blood lipid profiles.
- Satisfaction and satiety – The fat, fiber and protein of chocolate may help keep you feeling full. But none of these health benefits are an excuse to go overboard. The compounds in cocoa may offer some powerful health benefits, but too much of the sugary stuff will counteract the health-promoting benefits. But chocolate does spark joy and that definitely counts for something.
Source: Real Simple