Whether you’re an avid baker, or just love a sweet treat, it’s hard to resist the appeal of chocolate. But increasing evidence shows that resistance may not be necessary. Studies demonstrate myriad benefits of chocolate, from creating a feel-good buzz to boosting cardiovascular health. Read on to learn more, then try some healthy recipes.
A recent study in the journal Heart shows that habitual chocolate consumption is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Keeping in mind that the study only demonstrated correlation (not causation), it’s nonetheless exciting to see that among participants who consumed a relatively high volume of chocolate every day, 12% developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the 12-year study. Compare that to participants who didn’t eat chocolate at all, among whom 17.4% developed or died of the disease. How much were the chocolate-eaters consuming? About 16 to 100 grams per day, or roughly one half to two typical chocolate bars.
The potential health benefits of chocolate may come from flavonoids, a type of polyphenol, which cacao, the plant chocolate is derived from, has in spades. Flavonoids (and polyphenols) are often touted as an antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, and anti-inflammatory.
However, not all chocolate is created equal. A general rule of thumb asserts that the higher the cacao percentage of a chocolate bar, the more health benefits it contains. A lower percentage bar will contain less good-for-you cacao and more sugar and dairy. That’s why many recommend dark chocolate over milk. Research shows that dark chocolate may improve mobility among the elderly, raise good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and benefit cognitive function.
Ready to make chocolate a part of your healthy diet? Get started with this collection of recipes: chocolate protein balls provide a quick, energizing snack, while dark chocolate truffles with coconut oil make for a decadent, but antioxidant-rich dessert.