Chocolate has flavonoids
While chocolate is more often associated with indulgence than nutrition, chocolate (a derivative of cocoa beans) contains plant nutrients called flavonoids that provide many health benefits. Flavonoids are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine, and have been identified with having anti-viral, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant benefits. “Flavonoids are a plant-based antioxidant found in chocolate,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RD and author of Body Kindness. “The antioxidant properties of flavonoids are what stimulates health benefits from chocolate, such as helping with blood flow and decreasing cholesterol.” Cocoa contains two types of flavonoids, flavanols and flavonols. Flavanols, the prominent type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate, are the source of the antioxidant qualities. Check out these next-level chocolates with impressive health benefits.
Chocolate lowers risk for heart disease
According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, consuming cocoa and cocoa-containing foods in moderation have been linked to improved cardiovascular health due to their high content of flavanols, which have vasodilatory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits. “It appears that cocoa can increase the production and availability of endothelial nitric oxide, a substance that promotes dilation of the blood vessels, helping to improve cardiovascular function,” says Lauren Kelly, RD, based in New York City. Follow-up studies didn’t find the same benefits from those same levels of cocoa and cocoa-containing products, but researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a division of Harvard University, are currently investigating whether a 600 mg daily supplement of cocoa flavanols can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In addition to helping to lower blood pressure, cocoa-derived flavanols may also lower the risk of blood clots and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. “Lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol are two risk factors that would lead to heart disease,” says Scritchfield, “by managing them, the risk of heart disease decreases.” Here are 15 more ways to prevent heart disease.