On February 14th, bite-size chocolates filled with nuts, nougat, caramel, toffee, coconut, or a cherry will be given to those we care about as symbols of love and affection. It’s fitting then that Valentine chocolates come in heart-shaped boxes, the universal symbol of love.
But there’s an unintended irony to the heart-shaped containers that was only recently discovered by researchers: chocolate, minus its high-fat, sugary, creamy contents, may actually be good for heart health.
The Good-for-Your-Heart Ingredient
Phytochemicals known as flavanols, are known to be the heart-healthy ingredient in chocolate. Research suggests that these antioxidant compounds, which are richest in dark chocolate, may improve blood flow, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eat ’Til Your Heart’s Content?
Remember, most chocolate products are high in sugar, fat, and calories. While much of the fat is the kind that doesn’t raise cholesterol levels, it does add a significant number of calories. For chocolate lovers who regularly indulge, choose dark chocolates that are high in heart-healthy flavanols.
The Bottom Line?
Clearly, not everyone is a fan of dark chocolate, but it’s the one that is best for heart health. Eating too much chocolate, like any high-calorie snack, can have harmful effects, but the research strongly suggests a potential health benefit from consumption of dark, flavanol-rich chocolate as part of a healthful diet.