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Chocolate and Hearts, A Healthy Relationship

Here is an article I wrote for Washington Family Magazine, Feb 2015 on the Superfood: Chocolate.  You can see the article in the magazine on the link above or read it here:

Valentines Day is synonymous with chocolate.   Each February, more people buy loved ones chocolate than any other gift. The heart shaped boxes symbolize our love and affection, and they also represent the heart healthy benefits chocolate can provide!

But before you go running out and purchasing a warehouse bag of chocolate kisses, there are distinct differences in chocolate variety.  All chocolate is not created equal, nor is it all healthy for you.

Unfortunately, the processing and mass production of chocolate has altered its nutrition, thus rendering it void of nutrients and cacao (the super food and healthy part of chocolate).  Today’s cocoa is highly processed, and contains large amounts of sugar, hydrogenated oils, inflammatory fats and artificial flavoring.

The cacao, not the cocoa is what gives chocolate the title of “superfood”.  Chocolates that have higher percentages of cacao are less processed and healthier for you.   Dark chocolates (the darker the better) are rich in cacao, which is abundant in antioxidants and flavonoids. These nutrients are proven to be anti-inflammatory which can improve overall health.

When purchasing chocolates, check the label organic cacao, since it is free of pesticides, fertilizers and harmful toxins.  Another rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of 70% cacao and don’t forget to read ingredients to limit added sugars!

Some heart healthy benefits of  dark chocolate include:

  • Decreases cardiovascular disease by 30%
  • Decreases risk of stroke or heart attack
  • Lowers LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases insulin sensitivity (lowers diabetes risk)
  • Blood thinning properties

imagesIn addition to cardiovascular benefits, studies have shown that chocolate is also a mild aphrodisiac.  While not quite as strong as oysters, chocolate does contain two chemicals that increase sexual desires and arousal: tryptophan and phenylethlamine.  Tryptophan helps to increase serotonin production, which is a chemical in the brain that plays a role in arousal, whereas the brain releases phenylethlamine when one is falling in love or there are feelings of attraction.  Most studies show the effects to be mild but without question still a fitting gift this Valentines Day!  This Valentines Day share that box of dark chocolates with your loved one. It will keep your heart happy and healthy!

Image: Lattes and Leggings
The information provided in this post is for education only and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor should it be used as a replacement for seeking medical treatment.