The chocolate that we know and love is actually made from the seed of the Cacao Tree. These seeds are high in nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids have anti-oxidant properties, and when we eat them they help protect our cells from the wear and tear of everyday life. Even more impressive than the anti-oxidant properties, are that the specific type of flavonoids that are found in cacao have been shown to have a dramatic impact on heart health. Specifically these flavonoids help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. This is thought to be because they help maintain the flexibility of your veins and arteries. So the same chocolate we turn to mend a broken heart may help keep it strong for years to come!
Cacao in its natural form is quite bitter so we tend to add milk, sugar and butter- to turn it into the milkier chocolate that we are used to. Unfortunately as we dilute the cacao, we also dilute the heart health benefits of the chocolate. This is why dark chocolate is associated with more health benefits, because it is less diluted. A good rule of thumb is to look for dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. It will still be sweet and pleasing to your taste buds but will also retain the health benefits of cacao.
Even with all of the health benefits of chocolate, you can still have too much of a good thing. Your best bet is to stick to about an ounce of chocolate per day. Another plus of eating dark chocolate is the taste is much stronger than milk chocolate so you may find that your sweet craving is satisfied with just a little bite!
So in honor of American Heart Month, I want you to treat yourself to a heart healthy piece of dark chocolate each day. It’s a wonderful and delicious way to show your heart some love!
February is American Heart Month! Check out Total Gym Pulse for workouts and diet tips for a strong, healthy heart!
And remember, a few small steps can lead to big changes.
Article first appeared on TotalGym.com.