The Medicinal Side of Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is coming up and we all know what that means…it’s time to validate our relationships with some chocolate!

Now, you’ve probably heard that chocolate might actually be good for you. Well, there is some truth to that statement. The reason why chocolate might be good for you is because it contains a significant quantity of compounds known as flavanols (in general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the quantity of flavanols). In fact, these compounds have been shown to be beneficial to one’s health in several ways. For example, supplementing a diet with flavanol extracts from cocoa has been shown to improve cognitive function in elderly individuals. In addition, short-term trials indicate flavanols might also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease through lowering blood pressure, decreasing lipid levels in the blood, or by counteracting insulin resistance. However, long-term studies are needed to confirm these effects will still hold true over time.

All that being said, chocolate is nonetheless heavy in sugar and fat, especially milk chocolates. So once again, the darker you go, the healthier you go. And while dark chocolate may have higher levels of flavanols and less fat/sugar, it still has plenty of calories as well, so don’t go downing copious amounts of it.

Oh, and one more thing. Not all chocolate is made the same way! In fact, as Keith Ayoob of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York points out, stay away from Dutch or “Dutch-pressed” chocolate as their method of processing chocolate actually eliminates the majority of flavanols. So when you go to buy your chocolate this year, be sure to make the right choice. Stay away from the Dutch (Sorry Dutch people), and go for the dark!

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