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?