This month in honor of American Heart Month, every day, we’re calling out the top foods for your heart!
There are over 300 chemicals in chocolate, and it seems as if scientists are always discovering new information about how they work in the human body. Mayo clinic studies, for example, have found that chocolate contains stearic acid, a saturated fat that is associated with lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Other research has pointed to the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate as well as its mood-elevating properties.
Two independent studies, from Harvard, published in the Journal of Nutrition and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have arrived at the same conclusion: cocoa is a super food when it comes to cardiovascular and metabolic health. According to these studies, cocoa improves blood pressure, endothelial health, cholesterol levels, and reduces the metabolic precursors leading to heart disease.
Flavonoid-rich cocoa consumption has also been linked to reductions in risk factors for diabetes, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Also, resistance to the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, favorably dropped among those who consumed flavonoid-rich cocoa, compared to controls in other studies.
While all chocolate contains flavonoids, it is important to choose dark chocolate with a cacao content upwards of 70 percent. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more flavanols and antioxidants it contains. This should be clearly stated on the package; if not, look for dark chocolate with the content clearly labeled, and few added ingredients.
Another interesting bit about chocolate, is that the average cup of hot cocoa contains more flavonoids than other well known antioxidant drinks, like red wine and green tea. It’s important to read labels and be mindful of added sugars and other added ingredients in your hot chocolate and chocolate bars.