Healthy Eat­ing

Is choco­late your heart’s de­light? Let’s nd out how good it ex­actly is for your heart…

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

You may have heard news tout­ing choco­late as a heart-healthy food. But be­fore you in­dulge your sweet tooth too much, you need to put the re­ports in con­text. What’s re­ally in each cap­ti­vat­ing chunk of choco­late? When it comes to choco­late, what tastes good may be good

for your heart, but mod­er­a­tion re­mains the rule.


Two re­cent stud­ies have found that some choco­late prod­ucts con­tain high lev­els of an­tiox­i­dant flavonoids. Th­ese are plant-based com­pounds also present in black tea and some fruits and veg­eta­bles. Flavonoids help limit the neg­a­tive ef­fects of lipopro­teins (LDLs), com­po­nents of the harm­ful kind of choles­terol. This may help pro­tect ar­ter­ies and pre­vent heart dis­ease, stroke and ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, a dis­ease char­ac­ter­ized by clogged ar­ter­ies. Ac­cord­ing to one of the study’s findings, the flavonoids present in choco­late – polyphe­nols – also in­hibit the ac­tiv­ity of platelets in blood. Platelets are help­ful in clot­ting, but they can also be as­so­ci­ated with heart at­tacks and strokes.


The stud­ies, while promis­ing, do leave some unan­swered questions. Nei­ther study ad­dresses how much choco­late you need to eat to achieve heart-healthy ben­e­fits from its flavonoids. Be­cause choco­late is high in calo­ries and sugar and low in fi­bre, it’s con­sid­ered un­healthy to eat choco­late in the same quan­ti­ties that you might eat other flavonoid-rich foods, such as fruits and veg­eta­bles. In ad­di­tion, the stud­ies did not test choco­late’s long-term heart ben­e­fits. Fur­ther, not all choco­lates are cre­ated equal when it comes to flavonoids. Among choco­late prod­ucts, the darker it is, the higher it’s likely to be in flavonoids. A 3.5-ounce serv­ing of dark choco­late (about the size of two av­er­age choco­late bars) was found to con­tain 53.5 mg of flavonoids. The same serv­ing of milk choco­late con­tains 15.9 mg, and a cup of hot choco­late drink has about half that much. White choco­late con­tains no flavonoids. An 8-ounce glass of black tea, by con­trast, was found to con­tain 37 mg of flavonoids. The choco­late man­u­fac­tur­ing process ac­counts for the vary­ing lev­els of flavonoids. Choco­late prod­ucts are de­rived from co­coa beans. To be made into their fi­nal prod­uct, though, vary­ing amounts of co­coa pow­der, co­coa

but­ter, milk (typ­i­cally whole milk), sugar and other in­gre­di­ents are added. This of­ten adds fat and re­duces the flavonoids con­tent.

Here’s what each type of choco­late con­tains: Unsweet­ened choco­late – This is a mix­ture of co­coa pow­der and re­fined co­coa but­ter. It’s too bit­ter to eat and is used mainly in bak­ing. Dark choco­late – This con­tains co­coa, co­coa but­ter and vary­ing amounts of sugar. Milk choco­late – Milk choco­late con­tains co­coa, co­coa but­ter, vary­ing amounts of sugar and milk. Oc­ca­sion­ally, flavours such as vanilla are added. White choco­late – There’s no co­coa in this type of choco­late. It con­sists of co­coa but­ter or other fats, sugar, milk and flavour­ings.


De­spite pos­si­ble heart ben­e­fits, choco­late re­mains a food that should be en­joyed in mod­er­a­tion as part of a bal­anced diet. That’s be­cause choco­late prod­ucts are high in sugar, fat and calo­ries. While choco­late may con­tain more flavonoids than foods such as fruits and veg­eta­bles, it’s lower in the other vi­ta­mins, nu­tri­ents and fi­bre that con­trib­ute to the over­all value of th­ese other foods.

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