24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825

Nutrition
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Drinks to Help You Kick Your Soda HabitStay Away From Sugary Sodas, Spare Your HeartKnives: Essential Equipment for Healthy Food PrepHealthy Cooking on a BudgetHeart-Breaking News for Egg LoversAre Enhanced Waters Better for Your Health?Spring Ahead With Spring VegetablesThe Saturated Fat Debate Rages OnHealthy Diet Might Not Lower Dementia RiskDoes Your Family Eat Out a Lot? Watch Your Blood PressureNutritional Supplements Don't Ward Off Depression: StudySlow Down! Eating Too Fast Can Pile on the PoundsTry This Healthy Makeover for a Favorite Fast FoodHealthy Diet While Young, Healthy Brain in Middle AgeHow to Get Your Calcium If You're Lactose-IntolerantWhen it Comes to Diet, Not All Plants Are Created EqualRecipe for a Healthy Heart: Big Breakfasts, Less TVThe Right Way to Cook High-Antioxidant VeggiesLow-Carb Diets Linked to Higher Odds for A-FibHow Much Coffee Is OK?Health Tip: Foods that Reduce InflammationSocial Media 'Influencers' Can Get Kids Eating Junk FoodFast Food Delivers Even More Calories Than Decades AgoCooking With Whole GrainsEasy Recipes for Your Food ProcessorThe 411 on Nutritious, Tasty SeedsAdding Breakfast to Classrooms May Have a Health DownsideSupermarket Smarts: How to Save Money and Eat BetterBerkeley's Efforts Suggest Soda Taxes Do Cut Soda SalesGo Nuts Over NutsFast Food Versus Fast Casual -- Which Has More Calories?High-Fat Diets Do No Favors for Your Gut BacteriaHealth Tip: 10 Ways to Encourage Kids to Eat HealthierHealth Tip: Eat Less SaltRoasted Root Veggies Make a Hearty Winter SoupAHA News: Living Near Convenience Stores Could Raise Risk of Artery-Clogging ConditionHealth Tip: Eat Less Saturated FatKid-Friendly Food Swaps Everyone Will LoveWill Sugar Substitutes Help You Lose Weight?How to Keep Food Poisoning at BayHow to Choose the Right Cooking OilsCould Diet Sodas Raise an Older Woman's Stroke Risk?Hydrate Right, Your Kidneys Will Thank YouSweet Valentine Treats That Won't Bust Your DietAHA News: Are There Health Benefits From Chocolate?Get The Most From Frozen VegetablesUpdate Dietary Guidelines for a Healthier YouFrozen Berries: Just as Flavorful at a Better PriceMake a Healthy Game Plan for Super Bowl PartyingAHA: Healthy or Not? Keeping Score on Super Bowl Ads
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Wellness and Personal Development

AHA News: Are There Health Benefits From Chocolate?


HealthDay News
Updated: Feb 12th 2019

new article illustration

TUESDAY, Feb. 12, 2019 (American Heart Association News) -- Every year, Americans spend $22 billion on chocolate, and it's a safe bet that Valentine's Day accounts for a decent percentage of that total. While a heart-shaped box of chocolates may seem like the opposite of healthy, experts say it's less about the occasional small indulgence and more about making good everyday food choices.

Most chocolate falls into one of three categories: milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. Chocolate's darkness is determined by the proportion of cocoa solids made from cocoa beans, mixed with cocoa butter and sugar.

Milk chocolate, the most popular type in America, typically contains about 10 percent cocoa liquor -- the paste made from ground, roasted, shelled and fermented cocoa beans that contains both nonfat cocoa solids and cocoa butter -- compared with a minimum of 35 percent found in dark chocolate. Shoppers can tell how much cocoa liquor is in a dark chocolate bar by looking for the "percent cacao" figure on the label. Cacao is the raw form of chocolate, while cocoa is the heated version of cacao.

White chocolate, however, contains only cocoa butter -- no cocoa solids -- combined with sugar and other ingredients. (And for many people, it's not really considered a chocolate at all.)

A standard bar of dark chocolate with 70 percent to 85 percent cacao contains about 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrient database. Milk chocolate contains roughly the same number of calories but twice the sugar.

The amount of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is important because it can be an indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and certain drinks. Research suggests consuming more dietary flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.

"While dark chocolate has more flavanols than other types of chocolate, the data to suggest there is enough to have a health effect is thin at this point," said Alice H. Lichtenstein, the Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston.

In a 2017 study that closely controlled what people ate, researchers found that eating raw almonds, dark chocolate and cocoa helped lower "bad" LDL cholesterol in people who are overweight or obese. But when investigators took the almonds away, dark chocolate and cocoa alone didn't appear to aid heart health.

A potential explanation, researchers said, is that the flavanol dose was about half that used in earlier studies that found a beneficial effect on blood pressure 274 milligrams of flavanols compared to 586.

But that amount of flavanols "is unlikely achievable with daily consumption of commercially available dark chocolate," Lichtenstein said.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are currently studying whether a 600-mg daily supplement of cocoa flavanols can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

In the meantime, chocolate can still be part of an overall healthy diet.

"If you enjoy chocolate," Lichtenstein said, "the important thing to do is choose the type you enjoy the most and eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it is good for you."