Every Valentine’s Day for 65 years, my great-grandpa bought his wife a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates. Actually, he did this every year except for one. What happened that one year? She was on a “diet”. What else happened that year? She didn’t talk to him for two weeks. Now maybe two weeks of the silent treatment was a bit much, but the woman loves her chocolate.
My great-grandma, who recently turned 104 years old, no longer worries about dieting and can eat all of the chocolate she desires. And she does. While genetics plays a significant role in my great-grandma’s longevity, she may have been on to something with her favorite Valentine’s Day treat. Studies continue to show a positive connection between dark chocolate and health benefits. But before you drop hints about wanting a large box of chocolates this Valentine’s day, take notice that it’s dark chocolate, not milk or white, that brings benefits.
What is it about dark chocolate that makes it a better choice than white and milk varieties? Dark chocolate and pure cocoa contain cell-protecting flavanol antioxidant compounds.
You may have heard of flavonoids in relation to fruits and vegetables but they are also found in dark chocolate and cocoa too. Now chocolate bars don’t grow on trees but chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (also known as a cocoa bean) which grows in pod-like fruits on tropical cacao trees. So, just like other plant-derived foods, chocolate has been linked to some sweet health benefits.
You can learn more about where chocolate comes from here
Does this seem too good to be true? Here’s what the research is showing:
- 1-2 servings of dark chocolate per week has been shown to cut the risk for heart failure by up to 1/3
- A square of dark chocolate each day may reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40%
- Compared to lighter versions, dark chocolate provides a greater feeling of satiety, helping you to feel fuller longer
- Study participants who included dark chocolate 1x/day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by almost half
- Flavonoids increase the production of a compound that is known to help control insulin sensitivity
- Dark chocolate is rich in mood-boosting compounds
- Eating 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks significantly reduced the stress hormone levels of very anxious people
I realize that saying “chocolate is good for you” can easily be taken too far, so here are a few key points to remember:
- Not all chocolate is created equal (look for ones that are at least 70% cocoa)
- Benefits are generally seen from consuming a single 1-1.5 ounce serving per day, in combination with a healthy diet
- Total daily caloric intake is important in maintaining a healthy body weight
So, however you end up getting your box of chocolates this Valentine’s day, make sure it is one with correctly portioned, dark chocolate pieces. Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!