Healthy chocolate treats sounds more like a dream than a reality, but for those of us who crave and love chocolate, chocolate’s reputation is on the rise. A growing number of studies suggest and point to the facts that chocolate can be a heart-healthy choice.
Healthy Chocolate Treats Reduces Heart Disease
The reasoning being the cocoa bean is rich in a class of flavonoids, plant nutrients. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate.
Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols — which are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate or white chocolate — also helps lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.
Healthy Chocolate Treats Wellness Tip
Cocoa flavanols are the good-for-you phytonutrients found in nature. No other food on earth can match the unique blend of flavanols found in cocoa.
That’s why experts have begun referring to the cocoa bean as nature’s most surprising “superfruit.”
In addition, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. One caveat: The evidence for the health benefits of chocolate comes mostly from short-term and uncontrolled studies. More research is needed.
In the meantime, if you want to add healthy chocolate treats to your diet, do so in moderation. Just remember grabbing a candy bar with commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. Too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Choosing Healthy Chocolate Treats
Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Limit yourself to around 3 ounces (85 grams) a day, which is the amount some studies have shown to be helpful. Because this amount may provide up to 450 calories, you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the exercise to compensate.
As in any changes or modifications to diet all things need to be considered. Balancing an introducing healthy chocolate treats into a diet plan takes some thought.
Most commercial chocolates are highly processed which diminishes the potency of flavanols. The good news is that major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates.
Best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars). So be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. Read labels, shop around and use common sense.
Healthy Chocolate Treats and Recipes
You can make smart choices and no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in a while. Go head and enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e.g., 1 ounce) a few times per week, and don’t forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.
Per piece: 74 calories; 5 g fat ( 2 g sat , 3 g mono ); 0 m g cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrates; 5 g added sugars; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 1 mg sodium; 66 mg potassium
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