Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate two or more times per week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about threefold compared to those who never touch the stuff, scientists have reported. And the more chocolate, the greater the benefit.
There is big money behind recent studies that have shown that chocolate is good for your health – and plenty of chocolate manufacturers that have jumped on the “chocolate as medicine” bandwagon. There has been some great news for heart patients – many don’t have to give up all of the foods they love to have a healthy lifestyle, some chocolate is actually good for heart health.
Plain dark chocolate has been found to be rich in flavanoids, which in turn help to reduce blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. It has even been claimed to lower one's levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. However chocolates being also rich in fats and sugars may offset the benefits offered by flavanoids according to some researchers. Flavonoids are also found in many fruits and vegetables as well as tea and red wines.
Consumption of chocolate two or more times in a week actually showed a positive association in reducing death rates in heart attack survivors compared to those who never eat them.
The study found chocolate consumption was associated with lower cardiac mortality in patients free of diabetes surviving their first heart attack. Previous studies have found that chocolate offers heart protection to older men and women, and lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. People who eat dark chocolate regularly, in small servings, have significantly lower levels of C reactive protein, according to the study. This holds true even after accounting for any other potential confounding factors (such as differences in other dietary practices).
A piece of dark chocolate a day -- a very small piece -- keeps the doctor away.
Dark chocolate can be a flavorful and healthful treat to our heart disease prevention program. We should note that the benefit is provided by the flavanoid content of the cocoa. Not all dark chocolate has high cocoa content. In fact, the flavanoid content can be destroyed by processing. We must rely on manufacturers to state the flavanoid content as part of their future marketing strategies. Though far from perfect, use a minimum of "70% cocoa" labeling as a temporary guide in the absence of flavanoid content labeling.
How much dark chocolate should you consume?
Unfortunately, only a small amount is recommended. Most studies seem to suggest that you should limit the amount of dark chocolate to just 3.5 ounces or less a day.
The problem with consuming large amounts of dark chocolate is the extra calories you would be getting from the chocolate. If you are adding dark chocolate to your diet for your health, you need to balance the additional calories by eating less of some other snack food. Avoid chocolates with fillings such as caramel and nougat. These fillings are delicious, but they pile on the calories.