Why your heart really loves dark chocolate

Its heart month, and chocolate is on our minds! No wonder it’s a favorite Valentine’s treat — its delicious and sweet, and bonus, it actually has some heart-healthy properties. Let’s take a closer look at chocolate and its connection to health.

How is it heart healthy?

Chocolate contains cocoa in addition to commonly added ingredients — sugar, fat, additives, and sometimes milk. The cocoa bean (AKA cacao bean) is the main ingredient of cocoa. Studies show that cocoa’s polyphenolic antioxidants ( flavonoids) are what make chocolate “heart-healthy.” These avonoids may help to reduce blood pressure, decrease blood clot formation and reduce oxidation of LDL- cholesterol.

What to look for when buying

The name “dark chocolate” isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means any bar can be labelled as “dark” even if its not truly dark chocolate. When shopping for chocolate, look for options with a high cocoa percentage (at least 70%) to ensure you’re getting that healthy dose of flavanols and polyphenols. These varieties typically have cocoa or chocolate liquor as the rst ingredient. Several forms of cocoa may be listed, like cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and cocoa butter.

How to decrease bitterness

With a higher cocoa content, comes a more bitter avor. To decrease the bitterness, it can be helpful to break and chew dark chocolate in small pieces and let it melt in your mouth. Another tip is to pair your dark chocolate with fruit, nuts, wine, or co ee to complement the flavor.

Chocolate’s other ingredients

While dark chocolate is a heart- healthy choice, there are plenty of chocolate varieties that can also be a signi cant source of added sugar. Generally the higher the cocoa percentage, the lower the sugar content. High-quality dark chocolate often doesn’t contain milk, with the exception of milk fat. It is sometimes added to dark chocolate for a softer texture and flavor. The limited amount of milk in dark chocolate can make it a safer choice for people with lactose intolerance and vegans (make sure to check the ingredient list for added milk or milk fat).

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center