Chocolate is good for the heart: here are all the benefits.
Dietitian and Author
As a dietitian, I deal with anti-inflammatory nutrition in support of the female hormonal balance: I teach these topics and provide personalized consultations.
I collaborate with magazines and newspapers for articles on food and wellness.
I have published three books, + one in progress.
I firmly believe that there must be a perfect quality of raw materials, before a "perfect" diet.
What better time to give the gift of a box of chocolates than Valentine's Day? Especially considering that chocolate is good for the heart's health, and science says so!
Over the last twenty years, there have been countless scientific studies investigating the effects of cocoa (and therefore chocolate) on the cardiovascular system. The response is unequivocal: the consumption of cocoa and chocolate is good for our heart and circulation.
Chocolate and the heart: what do the studies say?
One of the most authoritative scientific publications about the protection offered to the heart by chocolate dates back to 2017: "authoritative" because it was published by Nutrients, one of the best-known scientific references in the field of nutrition and health.
For the publication, 14 prospective studieswere reviewed, involving more than 500,000 people, and the results are significant because of the large number of participants. They followed the chocolate consumption habits for several years (from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 16), with a regular collection of clinical data on heart health. The results were fascinating: people who consumed more than 3 portions of chocolate per week (1 portion = 30 g) were found to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks, as well as diabetes.
In other words, chocolate protects the heart!
A second interesting study, also published by Nutrients in 2019, Investigated the effect of chocolate on the heart under stress: it was shown that the daily consumption of 20 grams of dark chocolate, for at least 4 weeks, was able to reduce the stiffness of the arteries subjected to a physical effort equivalent to 30 minutes of jogging.
If sport is known to be good for the heart, then the combination of sport and chocolate consumption is doubly good for our health!
To better understand the correlation between chocolate and the heart, I quote a most recent study from 2019, this time published in another scientific journal, Heart. This study involved over 400,000 participants and revealed that the chocolate's beneficial effect on the heart has a limit: 100 g of chocolate per week. Above this value, says the study, "adverse effects may occur concerning the concurrent intake of sugar".
Chocolate, yes, but dark chocolate!
p>"...but should we limit ourselves to one bar a week? Otherwise, chocolate is bad for you?" Well, not really!
The positive effects of chocolate on the heart and circulation are related to cocoa's two nutrients: theobromine and flavonols.
Theobromine is a chemical similar to caffeine and is contained in cocoa beans and their derivatives. Like caffeine, it stimulates the central nervous system (it facilitates attention and concentration, somewhat less aggressively than caffeine).
Theobromine has a vasodilating effect on the heart. In other words, it increases blood flow, ensuring better oxygenation.
On the other hand, Flavonols are antioxidant molecules found in many foods other than chocolate (e.g. red wine, apples and broccoli).
Scientific studies tell us that regular consumption of foods containing flavonols reduces the oxidation of so-called 'bad cholesterol' LDL, the cholesterol fraction whose accumulation increases the risk of atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart attack.
Combining the potential of theobromine and flavonols makes chocolate an essential food for heart health: it allows better oxygenation, promotes circulation and protects the arteries from oxidation.
To contain a quantity of theobromine and flavonols that can be concretely beneficial, the chocolate must be dark: milk and white chocolate may be delicious, but they remain gluttony that does not bring concrete benefits to our health.
If we want to do something good for our hearts and indulge our appetites simultaneously, we should choose dark chocolate bars with a percentage even higher than 85%.
The percentage of dark chocolate is directly proportional to the cocoa mass contained and inversely proportional... to the sugar! In other words, if you choose 80-90% (or more) bars, the sugar content is almost insignificant.
Amedei chocolate specialities
Shall we do something good for our hearts?
So let's leave pralines and filled chocolates for the occasional indulgence and go for the super dark bars!
In fact, if the raw materials are of excellent quality and the level of care taken during all stages of processing the cocoa beans is very high, the final bar will be anything but bitter, even at high percentages of dark chocolate. Good dark chocolate releases a series of secondary aromas on the palate that underline its value.
You might surprise yourself with a taste test of Toscano Black 90: a blend of the finest cocoa beans (Trinitario and Criollo) with up to 90% cocoa mass. Treat yourself to a small square at the end of a meal: a cocoa aroma with hints of toast and white flowers, which will leave you with a taste that is anything but bitter.
If you want to go even further, try Acero 95: this bar contains up to 95% cocoa, and the unique feature is that Canadian maple is used as a sweetener instead of sugar.
Melt a small square on your tongue. Can you smell that delicious spicy aroma and liquorice aftertaste?
The best dark chocolate is good for the heart and delights the palate. Although it contains only cocoa beans processed with a pinch of sugar, it is not bitter at all, and its flavour can recall the aromas of dried fruits, cinnamon, ripe banana, roasted coffee and more.
A tasting experience, not just a spoil!