Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s day has turned into a holiday symbolized by cards, chocolate and flowers. So on this day I wanted to look at the health benefits of receiving chocolate as gifts on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year.
Since Americans love their chocolate, I figured any medical studies on chocolate would be of interest. The caveat, or caution, about healthy chocolate is that the more processed chocolate is, the less health benefit it has.
Commercial chocolate tends to be very processed, through fermentation, Dutch processing, roasting, etc. In chocolate, additives must be monitored as well. Sugar, milk and other additives reduce the healthy benefits of chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are processed and less healthy.
Now that we have cleared that up, let’s look at the health benefits. Chocolate has been studied for its antioxidant properties for heart health. Foods that have antioxidants are believed to help protect the body from free radicals cell damage.
Free radicals are produced during normal body processing like exercise or breathing as well as external agents like environmental toxins like pollutions or smoking. When the body doesn’t have enough antioxidants cells can become damaged and not heal correctly.
In heart disease free radicals can cause damage to the blood vessels and help promote plaque formation.
There are several different types of antioxidants one main group is called flavonoids. University of Cambridge looked at seven studies to see the conclusions about chocolate and heart disease.
Flavonoids are chemicals that help protect plants from environmental toxins and they also repair damage to plant cells. Flavonoids are found in other foods as well ,especially fruits and vegetables.
When we ingest flavonoids the protective properties are taken into our body. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has health-promoting flavonoids called flavanols, which have been showed to reduce cardiovascular risks.