Attention all chocolate lovers (just in time for Valentine’s Day):
By now, most of us know that eating fruits and vegetables is good for us. They provide our bodies with important nutrients, including polyphenols.
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that work hard to protect us from getting sick. These chemical compounds offer health benefits beyond those provided by essential vitamins and minerals.
But fruits and vegetables aren’t the only foods with these valuable nutrients. Cocoa “beans” (technically seeds) are an excellent source! These are the foundation for dark chocolate.
Research shows that polyphenols from dark chocolate can decrease blood pressure, lower LDL (lousy) cholesterol and protect against heart disease and stroke. Not only are they heart healthy, but indulging in moderate amounts of dark chocolate might reduce your risk of developing diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
Also, dark chocolate stimulates the release of certain brain chemicals that generate feelings of happiness and pleasure.
And, here’s the real kicker… Polyphenols can positively impact the composition of our gut microbiota. And, gut microbes break down polyphenols into special compounds that benefit our health.
This is far more information than most of us need to justify eating chocolate. But it’s important to choose the right kinds of chocolate, because not all chocolate is healthy.
Choose dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids (at least 70
Here are some of our favorite dark chocolate treats:
- Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips (Scott’s
- Hu Dark Chocolate (Bertina’s favorite, the mint flavor is Scott’s
- Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate, 85% Cacao (Colleen’s favorite)
About three-quarters to one ounce of dark chocolate each day is more than enough to reap the health benefits without overdosing on the calories or sugar. If you struggle with portion control, then choose individually wrapped chocolates. Like anything else, you can have too much of a good thing.
Note: Dark chocolate can cause heartburn, loose stool, and/or abdominal cramps in some people with gastrointestinal conditions. As always, start with a tiny amount before gradually increasing.