Just the mention of chocolate puts a smile on most faces and the good news that chocolate in limited amounts and in a particular form is actually a healthy food. The key there is the form, as all chocolate is not healthy. Dark chocolate is the healthy form of chocolate to which I will be referring. Milk chocolate and white chocolate do not have any of the health benefits that dark chocolate does. The chocolate must have at least 60% cocoa, preferably more than 70%. The real cocoa is actually makes chocolate kind of bitter, so the higher the cocoa content, the heathier, and the bitterer. The more the cocoa is processed the more of its healthy compounds are lost. One of the most pure forms of the cocoa for eating comes in cacao nibs which are very crunch and very bitter.
The health benefits in chocolate (note that I am always referring to the dark chocolate as described above) can be derived with just about one or two ounces a few times a week. Choose high quality and the most flavorful in order to enjoy it. Try using a little dark chocolate or cocoa in recipes or with real nut butters. Take your time eating it and enjoy the taste and experience.
Most of the health benefits of chocolate come from flavonoid antioxidants. The flavonoids found in cocoa are flavanols. These flavanols prevent fat-like substances from causing clots in the arteries by making the blood platelets less likely to stick together. Chocolate works much like aspirin to prevent blood clots. This ability of cocoa to prevent blood clots promotes cardiovascular health reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Cocoa is also rich in magnesium which also promotes heart health. These same flavanols modulate nitric acid in the body which is important for healthy blood flow and pressure. There have been studies that shown dark chocolate to lower blood pressure.