The way to a woman’s (healthy) heart: Valentine’s Day chocolates

There’s nothing I love more on Valentine’s Day than getting flowers and chocolates.  In years past, I viewed the chocolates as an enemy…..a tasty, tasty enemy.  I love chocolate.  If it’s around, I’ll eat it and it’s so bad for you!!! Or, so I thought….

Then I happened to come across some articles talking about the health benefits of chocolate.  What?! Chocolate has health benefits? Sounds good to me! 

It turns out that there are flavanoids in chocolate which act as antioxidants.  Studies have shown that chocolate can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and improve blood flow to the brain and heart.  On top of that, it stimulates endorphin production giving you feelings of pleasure, can act as an antidepressant because it contains serotonin, and can give you a small energy boost from caffeine.

It all sounds fabulous so far and there’s still more! Only 1/3 of the fat in chocolate is bad for you.  Another 1/3 is actually a healthy variety that is also found in olive oil and the final 1/3 research shows has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels.

Here comes the catch.  (I suppose everything that sounds too good to be true usually is.) Most of these benefits apply to dark chocolate.  The less processed the cocoa, the better.  That means, highly processed chocolates like milk or white don’t contain the high amounts of flavanols that are good for you.  This doesn’t mean that you can run out and eat a 5 pound brick of dark chocolate, either.  Small amounts on occasion are best.  Odds are the more chocolate you eat, the more healthy calories you’re replacing.

So, this year when you get that box of chocolates, thank the person who gave it to you for being so conscious of your health!

~jackie

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