Dark CHOCOLATE! …I can see you smiling as you get an endorphin and serotonin boost at just the thought of chocolate! With Valentine’s Day around the corner and with February being American Heart Health month it’s time to talk about chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but good quality dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate that is at least 70-80 percent cocoa is the best choice because it has less sugar (and sugar is toxic and addicting) and more cocoa, which is rich in antioxidants and flavonols (a class of plant-based compounds that provide many of the same benefits as antioxidants).
Chocolate does improve mood and create feelings of joy – we can all relate to this! And dark chocolate certainly does have heart benefits. This is important because heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States.
Moderate consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to be beneficial for heart health by:
- lowering blood pressure
- decreasing levels of lipids in the blood (this 2011 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that dark chocolate actually decreased total and LDL cholesterol and had no major effects on HDL and triglycerides.
- being anti-inflammatory
- improving insulin resistance (a condition characterized by decreased sensitivity to insulin and associated with diabetes)
And interestingly, dark chocolate may offer protection against cancer due to the “high concentration of catechins and procyanidins”
But here are a few questions to ask yourself as you indulge:
- Do you devour the whole bar of chocolate rather than a small piece? (the key here is moderate consumption!)
- Do you binge on chocolate and then feel awful afterwards – physically (really icky!?) and emotionally (the guilt-trip deal?)
- Does it make you anxious or more stressed or keep you awake? Caffeine is found in all forms of chocolate and cacao (other than white chocolate); the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains!
- Do you suffer from migraines (sadly, chocolate gives me a terrible headache two days later!)
- Do you experience breast tenderness leading up to your period?
If you answer yes to any of the above then you really should reconsider if chocolate is for you this Valentine’s Day! And give delicious carob a trial instead.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called “Friend’s day” and is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones. I wish you, your loved ones and your friends a happy and wonderful Valentine’s Day and a happy healthy heart – both physically and emotionally!