Time to celebrate with chocolate

Charles M. Schultz is credited with saying, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."  I couldn't agree more.

And experts agree that, in moderation, chocolate may have heart health benefits.  The reason is the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as vegetables and fruits. We also benefit from their antioxidant power when we eat foods rich in flavonoids.

Flavanols are the main type of flavonoids found in chocolate and cocoa. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

Not all types of chocolate are healthy as some forms contain lower levels of flavanols. The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.) the more flavanols are lost.  Our best bet is dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that has loads of added fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). I always thought Dutch chocolate was a better grade of cocoa.

The caveat here is still "in moderation." An ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week is best.  Remember to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like cranberries, tea, apples, onions and if appropriate, red wine.

World Chocolate Day is celebrated on Thursday, July 7. That's my favorite day of the year. That reminds me: I will have to ask my boss for that day off to celebrate.  All of my friends are invited to celebrate with me.  But like Linda Grayson says, "There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate."

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