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Can one chocolate a day really keep heart disease at bay? As we celebrate Heart Awareness this month, we’re giving you one more reason to fall in love with chocolate: it may actually help your heart!
The health benefits of chocolate have been known for centuries, but the true hero behind the ‘chocolate mask’ is cacao. The cacao bean is produced by the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, which is native to South America. The tree bears fruit (or pods), and within each pod is roughly 20-40 cacao beans.
Considered a superfood, cacao naturally has:
Why does this matter?
All of the elements found in cacao help improve heart health by reducing inflammation in the body and eliminating damaging free radicals. The flavonoids and polyphenols in cacao can also help lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the brain and heart.
The following are some descriptions of various types of chocolate and cacao products; it is NOT a list of recommended types of chocolate! *Special thanks to WakeMed dietitian, Parul Kharod, for her contributions to this portion of the article.
If you love your heart, you’ll love your chocolate in moderation. While there is no set standard or daily recommendation for how much chocolate you should consume (bummer), most researchers agree that you should set the bar: dark.
WakeMed dietitian, Parul Kharod, recommends that you limit yourself to approximately 1 oz. of dark chocolate daily. The higher the cacao content of the chocolate bar, the better it is for your health. Look for bars containing 70% cacao or more.
As a general rule, darker chocolate typically contains more cacao and therefore more flavonoids than other varieties of chocolate. So, before you go for the candy grab, be mindful of the type of chocolate you’re reaching for!
Parul is a Clinical Dietitian in Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Cary Hospital. For information related to diet and nutrition, or to speak to one of our licensed, registered dietitians, contact Outpatient Nutrition Services today. Insurance coverage and costs may vary.
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