Monday, February 14, 2011

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

It’s Valentine’s Day and more chocolate will probably be eaten today than any other day of the year. That could mean a lot of sugar for people who are trying to cut back on calories.

But the news is not all bad. Chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa might actually be good for you. Natural cocoa from cocoa beans are high in antioxidants, which can protect your cells from oxidative damage. Milk chocolate less cocoa and, therefore, does not provide the same level of protection.

Studies show that polyphenols, the active compounds in dark chocolate, may help to lower blood pressure, improve heart health and prevent stroke. These compounds might also protect brain cells, thus helping to slow dementia.

Keep in mind that all chocolates are not equal. Milk chocolate does not contain the same high levels of polyphenols that are found in dark chocolate. That means you would not be getting the same health benefits.  So, the next time you reach for chocolate, make sure it is dark chocolate.

Read the label before you buy.

If you need help planning healthy meals and snacks for heart health or to control your blood pressure, talk to a registered dietitian. Find a registered dietitian by visiting the American Dietetic Association website at or do an online search. Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most trained and experienced in the art and science of nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and other aspects of food and nutrition.