Chocolate: A Little Goes a Long Way to Help Prevent Heart Disease

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Chocolate--just saying the word can trigger a craving like nothing else. However, I must confess, for the past two years that hasn't been a big issue for me because every night I have what I like to call my anti-oxidant cocktail. This cocktail consists of one ounce of 70% Lindt dark chocolate with two tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Not only do I enjoy my little treat every evening, these foods contain polyphenols, or chemicals found in plants that can offset free radicals in our bodies, which may help prevent many diseases.

Having been diagnosed with hypertension 6 years and 80 pounds ago, I thought that once I lost the weight and started a consistent exercise routine I would be able to stop my anti-hypertensive medication, but that has not been the case. So I decided to look into other avenues to help keep my risk for developing heart disease low.

A few years ago I came across an article in Prevention Magazine about the healing properties of dark chocolate and the effects it had on heart disease. At the time, research had focused on consuming one ounce of dark chocolate to help lower one's cholesterol as well as increasing arterial flexibility and helping keep blood platelets from clotting, which is why I chose that amount.

However, more recent studies have shown that consuming a very small amount of dark chocolate, may have many of the same heart-healthy benefits, including lowering inflammation in the body, which has been shown to be a contributing factor in heart disease. And when they say small, they mean small--approximately 6 grams of dark chocolate per day (one ounce equals 30 grams) is all you need to reap the benefits. According to the studies, consuming more than 6.7 grams does not necessarily increase your benefits.

Because chocolate is high in fat and calories per ounce, if you choose to add these into your meal plan, remember to do so in your planning stage. If you are concerned about the trigger effect from eating chocolate, studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate does not trigger the same cravings like milk chocolate and can leave you more satisfied.

And if you are wondering why I have the walnuts with my dark chocolate, well, I love nuts and walnuts are a great source of B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to help lower cholesterol as well. To me, this is a win-win situation which is why I call my treat my Anti-oxidant Cocktail.

Do you believe that dark chocolate offers the benefits that the studies show? Do you eat it on a regular basis? Do you like dark chocolate?

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Comments

I didn't used to like dark chocolate, but started learning to like it the past 8-10 years ago as I learned more about the anti-oxident properties. We've also settled on Lindt 70 or higher, even the 90% if we can find it. Odd thing is, even one half of their "serving" is enough, and I can wander up and down the candy aisle with the cheaper quality milk chocolates (the ones I have allergies to, from all the dairy used), and I'm just not in the least bit tempted for those chocolates, even if I'm starving!! My husband has been on high blood pressure meds for years and he feels like he can tell a difference, so he's pretty good about keeping up with his chocolate - and he only needs/wants one square (which, in Lindt bars, one square is 1/4 of a serving!) per day. So it does take some getting used to the flavor but evidently my body does benefit. Report
Dark chocolate is the ONLY chocolate to eat. I like it on anything: nuts, pretzels. Even the occasional Ghirardelli Dark & Mint squares for a special treat. My daughter gave me a small bag (11 pcs.) for Christmas. I have two left - oh my !!! Report
IDLETYME
I LOVE dark chocolate! Report
FLUFFY_KITTY
If I was told to quit eating dark chocolate then I would commit suicide by the death of chocolate! ;-) This is about the only food that I can not live without. That is all I got to say. ;-) Report
FISHINGLADY66
I like Dark Chocolate, but I am not a chocolate eating person. I do try to have some once in a while. Report
LEEANNE_1129
I have always loved chocolate and growing up my peers would say I was crazy because I preferred the dark. Now they realize I made the healthier choice. Yay! Now to learn to stop at 6 grams. :-0 Report
1JBLESSED54
I am going to add this to my plate! Report
RUBYKNOWS
Love milk chocolate, but since losing 76 lbs (so far) I treat myself to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is for very special occasions. Report
I love dark chocolate. I'm not sure that I would be able to stop at a piece or partial piece though. But calls in my self control and that is something I am working on. Report
Dark chocolate is the only chocolate. Report
I love dark chocolate, and I love that a little bit is enough to satisfy me. However, I'm skeptical about the supposed physiological benefits. Studies that aren't showing benefits don't get as much press, so I'd like to see a meta-analysis of the literature. That said, I do think there is a positive psychological effect of partial servings of chocolate. Report
GALLANTDC56
savoring a piece of dove dark chocolate with a cup of hot tea is awesome! Report
Unfortunately I don't care for dark chocolate as much but I could learn to like it as I have high blood pressure and hate the meds so I would almost do anything to get off them. Report
I love chocolate chocolate covered nuts are my fav. the problem is I have a hard time eatting just a few you know but I'm working on it Report
My sister taught me a little trick that works... just let it melt in your mouth aka savor it! She likes Hershey's dark kisses, I prefer Dove dark. Just a couple satisfy me. Report
I love dark chocolate, now I have a better reason to eat it. Report
Guess I have to go buy some dark chocolate. Thanks for the blog! Report
I LOVE dark chocolate because its taste is so much richer than milk chocolate. I will definitely keep some handy for medicinal purposes. Thank you for sharing. Make it a good day. Report
MEAGARA1
yay dark chocolate Report
RAINE64
oh, i love dark chocolate, now! i believe that the reason i am able to eat just 1-2 squares is because it is not as sweet as milk choco. yes DARK choc is/ can be somewhat bitter, depending on company, yet it is much more satisfying on the cravings then milk choco. YUMMMMMY! Report
Since I love and savor all kinds of chocolates. Dark chocolate is definitely a treat you are almost tasting the pure chocolate. It's like not knowing what your food taste like because its disguised with lots of sodium and heavy spices. Report
As a lifetime fan of milk chocolate, I've been trying to learn to like dark chocolate. So far, it's going okay. That is to say that my first instinct no longer to spit it out! LOL Report
COSTLY1
I eat dark chocolate every now and then,the hershey dark chocolate taste bitter it put me in mind of ex lax,so I Experiment with others long as it doesn't have partially hydrogenated soybean oil,it good for you! Report
I have eaten dark chocolate but I think it has a bitter taste. Guess I'll try the Hershey's dark chocolate and see if that tastes better to me. Report
I LOVE dark chocolate! The darker the better. I like Green and Black - great flavors and selection. Report
I love Thorntons Dark Chocolate Gingers. Lovely, succulent, stem ginger disks enrobed in thick, dark chocolate, Yum!! The benefit of dark chocolate with the added benefits of ginger!!

I've been eating them regularly the past few weeks :-) Report
CAMELSAMBA
People who say you don't like dark chocolate - what about chocolate chips? Those are semi-sweet, and thus a "gateway treat" to developing a taste for dark chocolate :^). Nowadays with the cacao percentage being advertised on so many bars, you can often work your way up to the darker chocolates slowly. Try looking in the candy section at Target - they have a pretty good selection of higher end chocolates at a reasonable price. Maybe you'll find a dark chocolate you like! Report
for those who do not like dark chocolate, try crumbling it on some strawberries! yummy!! Report
Mmmmmm...dark chocolate. Report
I love any kind of chocolate, specially with almonds. I really like the BJ's almonds covered with dark chocolate, although I don't know what percentage of dark chocolate is in there, I hope is the good one!!! Report
I prefer dark chocolate,there's one by hersheys its very good. Report
I have to say... Dove Dark Choco is Divine! the package reads 1.30 oz... guess I will not eat the last square next time... I just had a bar... thx for the info! Report
HANGINON
I have the opposite problem...I can't eat chocolate at all. I'm highly allergic to chocolate and know to never eat it. Report
LONDON007
I do not like dark chocolate, but I would try some raspberries and nuts with some dark chocolate grated over the top. Report
I prefer milk chocolate, but if no other choice I will eat it, like most things. Report
I do not like dark chocolate. Give me milk chocolate or white chocolate. I can easily do without chocolate all together though. Will try to eat a little if it is good for you. Report
I love dark chocolate and it definitely does not give you the same "I want more" feeling as milk chocolate. Report
I know they have said Dark chocolate is best for you. I do not like dark chocolate. Give me milk or white chocolate any day. Report
I know people say it's better but I still prefer milk chocolate as a rare treat. Report
Aint ever ran into a bad chocolate, But some were a little bit better tasting than others, I put some in my diet every day Report
Dark chocolate is small quantities are good for you. Report
There is no chocolate that I do not like! I work hard to eat it in moderation!! It's tough! Report
This chocoholic loves dark chocolate and yes I do believe it does have benefits the other chocolate doesn't. I also try to havew a little dark chocolate each day--- will have to try adding some walnuts for better benefits . Report
I enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate every now and again and like the almond bark best. I figure I am getting the best of both worlds with those two mixed together. Report
I love dark chocolate! But just a small piece once in a while. Report
VANANDEL
I have to admit that I love milk chocolate more than dark chocolate, but I do eat dark chocolate because of its health benefits. It always seemed to me that 1 ounce was a lot of chocolate - so I was having closer to half-an-ounce myself. Not sure I will back off to only 6.7 grams... Report
Dearly love dark chocolate. Have loved Hershey's Special Dark since it came out. Never liked white chocolate, which tastes basically like sweet lard to me. Milk chocolate is edible, but too sweet & too bland, like American Cheese. I can well believe dark chocolate has health benefits, which would explain the craving, but limiting myself to medicinal amounts? I've tried buying a big bar with the "I'll just eat one square a day" idea in my head. The best I've been able to manage is a third of the bar gone each day. Pretty weinie, but there it is - chocolate is my nemesis. Report
I love dark chocolate. Because it isn't as sweet I find I don't eat a lot of it. Perhaps once or twice a week. Since I'm a chocoholic, it really helps my cravings. Report
BEHMOM
I confess that I much prefer the taste of milk chocolate. Report
I have always loved chocolate - no hard candy or gummy bears or licorice for me as a kid, only chocolate would do. In recent years I do not have it very much, but still get a craving once in a while for some fine quality chocolate that is out there. Glad it is considered healthy now and people can enjoy a bit without guilt. Unfortunately these days I find it makes me feel a bit sick and aggravates acid reflux so I can only have a bit myself. Eating a small piece slowly is a real treat.. Report