UACES Facebook Chocolate May Actually Be Good for Your Heart

Chocolate May Actually Be Good for Your Heart

Buying chocolates for your loved one this Valentine's Day doesn't have to sabotage their New Year's Resolution

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

Cupid's arrow has struck the sweet tooth of chocolate lovers this Valentine’s Day holiday. According to the U.S. Food Market Outlook for 2018, Valentine's Day is the third biggest holiday for the $22 billion U.S. chocolate candy industry. If you plan to buy chocolates for your loved one for Valentine’s Day, you won’t sabotage their New Year’s resolution to improve their health because the latest research information says chocolate may actually be good for you.

Researchers have found the main flavonoids found in cocoa are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that provide us with antioxidants. Cocoa contains the same nutrients found in other plant foods, including minerals and specific antioxidants that help ward off diseases such as heart disease. 

Antioxidants help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are the bad guys. They are the things we want to reduce in our body that cause plague formation on arterial walls and leads to increases in LDL-cholesterol levels. 

Not all chocolate carries the same amounts of possible health benefits. There are certain forms of chocolate that seem to promote more health benefits than others. When cocoa is processed into your favorite candy or chocolate product, it goes through several processing steps in order to produce a product the consumer will eat. During processing, flavonoids are lost. So the more the chocolate is processed, the less flavonoids it will have, therefore, reducing any possible health benefits.

Dark chocolates seem to have the highest level of flavonoids, because they have gone through few processing steps. On the other hand, milk chocolate is processed many times and therefore many of the flavonoids are missing.

Milk chocolate is made by adding dry milk to sweetened chocolate. To be classified as milk chocolate it must contain at least 12 percent milk solids and 10 percent chocolate liquor.

Manufacturers are currently looking at ways to keep flavonoid levels high in all types of chocolate. Until they develop a process that does this, dark chocolate candy and baking products promote the highest level of possible health benefits.

While this is great news for chocolate lovers, it doesn’t mean that you should consume all the dark chocolate that you want, and consider it a health food. Caution still must be maintained as it relates to the amount of fat found in chocolate. The fat in dark chocolate has equal amounts of monounsaturated fat, the heart healthy fat and saturated fat, the fat we want to avoid.

In fact, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 1 dark chocolate candy bar contains 5.51 grams of total fat, 8 grams of sugar, 85 milligrams of potassium, and 90 calories.

All of this good news may leave you wishing you could trade places with Lucille Ball in that famous television scene where she is working on the assembly line eating all those chocolate candies. While we may be tempted to eat the whole box of chocolate candy we receive, it makes better sense, health wise, to enjoy it over time.

As with all foods, we still should consume chocolate in small amounts and balance it with healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that we have to make wise choices in any foods, including sweets that we eat. We have to keep in mind the additional fat and calories supplied by the ingredients in the total piece of candy. 

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at cdue@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
cdue@uaex.edu

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