Lots of chocolate good for the heart

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 4th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

All the saturated fat in those gravy-smothered mashed potatoes, succulent dark turkey meat and buttery rolls can really do a number on your ticker. But if you want to alleviate some of the damage and help your heart a little, be sure to include chocolate pie on the dessert table.

Chocoholics, take heart — literally. New research from the University of Cambridge found that the more chocolate, the better when it comes to preventing heart disease.

In the first study ever to investigate chocolate’s direct effect on heart disease, researchers combined the results of seven studies of the chocolate-eating habits of more than 100,000 people. While the results don’t give chocolate-lovers carte blanche to go cocoa-crazy, they do show that those who ate the most of the sweet stuff had a 37 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 29 percent lower risk of stroke compared with people who ate the least amount of chocolate.

But don’t go loading your shopping cart with bars, cookies, candy and desserts just yet. The caveat is that along with heart-healthy cocoa, many chocolate products also have a hearty helping of artery-clogging fat, sugar and calories. The key, of course, is moderation, and going straight to the source: cocoa in its purest form. But even the most dedicated chocoholics probably can’t stomach swallowing cocoa powder by the spoonful.

Instead, go dark and reach for the highest percentage of cocoa you can handle in dark chocolate. Previous research shows it boasts the most polyphenols (polly-FEE-nols), which increase production of the chemical nitric oxide. An increase in nitric oxide could benefit blood pressure and blood flow though arteries.

So the next time someone scolds you for indulging in some devil’s food cake, just tell them you’re helping your heart. And offer them a slice … if you’re willing to share.