Enjoy Chocolate-- a heart healthy treat as you celebrate American Heart month
What do you think about when you hear the word chocolate? As a registered dietitian it is often interesting to hear friends and clients become shocked when they hear that I indulge in and in fact suggest a daily dose of chocolate as a treat!
Scientific evidence suggests that dark chocolate (not milk or white chocolate) in small amounts can have a positive effect on our blood vessels, increase blood flow, decrease blood pressure and increase HDL ("good" cholesterol). Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants and plant flavonoids. Other good sources of plant flavonoids include green tea, red wine, fruits and vegetables. This said, it is important to recognize that chocolate is still a high calorie indulgence and moderation/portion control is important. The key to enjoying the heart healthy benefits is to select a small piece of dark chocolate and savor the sweet, silky favors as a treat. Read the label carefully, make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar and enjoy chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. Research also shows that cocoa contains a compound called phenylethylamine (similar to our body’s dopamine and adrenaline), a mild antidepressant and stimulant which can have a positive effect on our mood. So, this year as you celebrate American Heart Month feel free to indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate and know that you are benefiting your heart!