A study showed that eating chocolate leads to lower blood pressure. They also found evidence of positive changes in cholesterol levels and an increase in insulin sensitivity, which may contribute to lowered risk for diabetes.
Finding the healthful chocolate is important, since not all chocolate is the same. The component of chocolate that creates these positive health benefits, according to researcher Eric Ding, comes from polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa that have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids are antioxidants that are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine and coffee.
The study found:
* Dark chocolate containing at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa lowered blood pressure in all participants, especially those with hypertension
* Cocoa slightly lowered LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and caused a large increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
* Flavonoids in cocoa also improved the body’s response to insulin, which can lower the risk of diabetes.
Tips to consider for chocolate consumption:
* Limit yourself to a small piece of chocolate (a bite-sized piece or about one-third of a bar).
* Choose dark chocolate (if not heavily processed) and new high-flavonoid chocolate and cocoa products rather than milk chocolate.
* Look at the ingredients. To get the most flavonoids, make sure the first listed ingredient is cocoa solids or mass or chocolate liquor, not sugar.
To learn more about flavonoids in vegetables, visit the USDA.