One of our favorite sweet treats, chocolate, may serve a more useful purpose to our health than just satisfying a craving. In fact, chocolate has long been recognized as a source of good health, although it is becoming popular again. In the colonial times, chocolate was used to treat cholera and asthma, and was considered a health food in the military. Today, scientists recognize chocolate as a healthy snack that can help to combat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and to prevent damage to cells. The ingredient in chocolate that makes it so healthy are its flavonoids or flavonols, which are the same good plant compounds that can be found in wine, green tea, and certain fruits. Scientific research is now beginning to show that chocolate’s flavonoids and flavonols help prevent damange to cells from normal metabolism, and that plant sterols can help to lower cholesterol.
Typically, the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is for you. This isn’t always the case, however, and so a more accurate way to gauge the health benefits of your bar of chocolate is to take a look at the nutrition labels. Variations in processing can also lower the number of healthy flavonols, even if there is a higher percentage of cacao in the chocolate. Doctors recommend that those seeking out the health benefits of chocolate look for bars that are 62 to 70% cacao. After 72%, the chocolate starts to taste bitter. Other health claims in regards to chocolate include the ability to reduce anxiety and increase energy, as well as aid healthy blood flow and keep blood pressure low. The best places to find the healthiest chocolate is in health food stores.