It’s the season for chocolates. After all even before the chocolate hampers that came as Diwali gifts finish, the Christmas hampers will begin to surface. Christmas and chocolates go really well together any ways, don’t they. And no, you needn’t worry about them being bad for you, some chocolates can actually help boost your heart’s health.
Our heart always knew it. Chocolates are good for the heart. And not just romantically speaking! Research into flavonoids, which are found in chocolate, has made it crystal clear that these antioxidants (flavon-oids) can be very beneficial for your heart. In fact, researchers have found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate (which include procyanid-ins, epicatechins, and catechins) are actually more effective antioxi-dants than those in other good sources like tea. Want to know how they work? Well, flavonoids improve the functioning of the endothe-lium, a layer of cells in arteries (including those in the heart) that pre-vents plaque build up and protects against high blood pressure. They basically prevent blood platelets from sticking together and causing clots, so keep our arteries healthy. Another study has reported that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide (NO), a com-pound critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure. In addition chocolates also contain phenolics, which again are considered to be heart healthy. So yes, you can go ahead and chomp the stash hidden in your drawers and also gift your loved ones this heart healthy gift: dark, creamy chocolate this Christmas minus any guilt.
Be careful though
It is true that chocolate tends to be high in fat and sugar. But depend-ing on the kind of fat in the chocolate, it might not be too hard on your arteries. Good quality chocolates are made with cocoa butter, (heart healthy fat that has been shown to lower both total and LDL choles-terol). Remember, not all chocolate is made with cocoa butter, so be sure to read labels. Also practice portion control. Try to stick to about 100 calories of dark chocolate daily, adjusting your calorie intake and exercise appropriately. And remember you won’t help your heart by gaining weight so although chocolate is good for you, but eat too much, and you might as well apply it directly to your hips. Alternately use cocoa powder (chocolate with much of the fat removed) to make hot chocolate, which by the way is a better idea as when warm the absorption and availability of these antioxidants multiplies exponen-tially (heat helps trigger release of more antioxidants.)
So, which is the healthiest chocolate?
Remember darker the better. It’s a fact that plain dark chocolate products containing 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest way to satisfy a craving for chocolate, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat.