The Dish on Chocolate
newscasts and magazine articles have been suggesting that
chocolate is heart healthy. But before you stock
up on this sweet treat, there are some things that you
Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate, when
eaten as part of a healthy diet, may have some benefits to
heart health. Dark chocolate - specifically cocoa
powder - contains antioxidants that are protective to the
heart. Studies also show that dark chocolate can help
decrease blood pressure levels (high blood pressure is a
risk factor for heart disease). It is important to note that
in all of the studies only dark, unsweetened chocolate that
was relatively low in both fat and sugar was used. Dark
chocolate is quite different from the standard sweet, rich,
milky chocolate that is commonly found in Canadian chocolate
bars and candy. In fact, the studies showed that milk
chocolate and white chocolate do not offer the same heart
health benefits that dark chocolate offers, because they
don't contain the same level of antioxidants.
Chocolate - too much of a good thing?
Furthermore, the studies used far more chocolate than most
people would normally eat - 100 grams, or the equivalent of
two or three standard-size dark chocolate bars every day.
Adding 100 grams of dark chocolate to your diet would add a
whopping 500 extra calories and 30 grams of fat, which would
likely cause weight gain - and wipe out any of the health
benefits from the dark chocolate. For heart health, it is
not recommended to eat 500 calories worth of chocolate on a
daily basis. It's still too soon to say if eating less than
100 grams of dark chocolate will have any heart health
A better way to benefit from chocolate
Dark chocolate is just one of many antioxidant-containing
foods that can be part of a healthy diet. Flavanols, the
type of antioxidant found in dark chocolate, are also found
in berries, grapes and tea. Including a small amount of dark
chocolate in your diet is safe and healthy, but it is
important to rely on healthy fruits like blueberries,
cherries and grapes for their antioxidant power, not just on
The best advice?
The dietitians at Becel (www.becel.ca)
say that you should consider dark chocolate a true luxury
and enjoy the melt-in-your mouth delicacy in moderation.
When you do indulge, she suggests that you look for
high-quality dark chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa
solids. This will ensure that the maximum amounts of
antioxidants are present in your treat.