Whether Valentine’s Day is a euphoric day of romance or a dreaded day that can’t go by fast enough, it is bound to involve chocolate! Thrillingly, indulgence may actually have some health benefits. Various studies have revealed a positive effect of dark chocolate on cardiovascular health—perfect for Valentine’s Day!
One of the things that makes dark chocolate so special are the dietary flavonoids in cacao (especially one called epicatechin) which may promote cardiovascular health. Epicatechin either has direct antioxidant effects or anti-blood clot mechanisms—heart healthy either way. Also, regular consumption of chocolate containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols may lower cholesterol and improve blood pressure. FYI other foods rich in flavanols other than cacao are tea, grapes (yay red wine!), and grapefruit.
Dark cacao is magnesium-rich and magnesium is involved in a magnitude of chemical reactions in your body, especially metabolic processes that convert food to energy. In addition to heart function, magnesium is also essential for muscle and nerve function. Ingestion of both solid dark chocolate and liquid cocoa has been linked to improved blood vessel function. There is also good news for those with elevated blood sugar since consumption of dark chocolate improves glucose metabolism by enhancing insulin resistance and sensitivity.
Don’t get too carried away though, not all chocolate is created equal! Healthy effects are reduced when chocolate is consumed with milk or if milk is incorporated as milk chocolate. Sugar content may also negate effects while sugar-free preparations may augment them. So, enjoy your Valentine’s Day, but choose your chocolate responsibly.
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