Eat This for a Healthy Heart

Child with chocolate on his faceIf you haven’t heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate yet then you must not have the same type of useless office job that I once had. Approximately six hours of my day was spent searching the world-wide-web in hopes of making the clock tick a little faster. Needless to say I’m now fluent in all things useless and few things relevant. But in the “few things relevant” category, there are some things I actually follow and live by, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. Like this: did you know that dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries)? Hello? Why wasn’t this taught to me in Health class all those many years ago? Chocolate-covered strawberries have just taken on a whole new look to me. Plus, dark chocolate is good for your heart. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two things that can benefit from a small bar of dark chocolate a day. (Sidebar: You do know that even thought it’s written here, this, by no means gives you medical clearance to pillage the chocolate aisle in your grocery store in hopes of lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol. Always consult your doctor before taking matters into your own hands.)

Ok, back to the benefits. Have you ever noticed how chocolate can make you feel good? I have. Want to know why? Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins. That’s the same “feel good” hormone that’s produced when exercising. Who knew? Why exercise when I can feel just as good after eating a chocolate bar, right? All right, let’s not get carried away to Fantasy Island. Also, since dark chocolate is a plant-based food, it contains minerals such as copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. All these help a heart out.

Now I know what you may be thinking. What about the fat found in dark chocolate? Well let me tell you, only about 1/3 of the fat found in there is bad fat. The other 2/3′s is good fat and they are oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil, and stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol even though it may be a saturated fat. The third and bad fat is palmitic acid, which raises cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. This bad fat may actually be good in that it will prevent you from overdoing it on the chocolate. Despite its benefits, dark chocolate must be consumed in moderation, of course.

So if you’re like me and need a sweet bite after dinner, go for a small handful of dark chocolate morsels and help a heart out. And skip the glass of milk. Apparently washing down dark chocolate with milk prevents the antioxidants from being absorbed. Good to know.

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About the Author: Anne Marie Constanzo