Alyssa Simon, Columnist
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and with it comes an assortment of cookies, candy, rich cheesecakes, bake sale sweets and perhaps even exquisite dinners. Valentine’s Day is a day of love, so whether it’s the love you have for your significant other or your family and friends, it’s important to make sure you show your love to the very symbol of Valentine’s Day: your heart!
Having a healthy heart means getting regular exercise and eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. While it is perfectly okay to splurge on holidays or other special events, you should try to be good to your heart daily. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could splurge and be good to your heart at the same time? This Valentine’s Day (or really any day), you can! The secret? Dark chocolate.
Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which is a rich source of an antioxidant called flavanols. According to the Cleveland Clinic, raw cocoa beans can help protect plants from environmental toxins and helps to repair damage, and when we consume flavonoids, we reap the benefits. Research shows that dark chocolate has a variety of health benefits, while lighter (milk) chocolate does not. This is because the raw cocoa beans (that contain antioxidants) are so bitter without processing, they are almost inedible. To make the chocolate more palatable, it is processed and loses cocoa, and with the loss of the cocoa comes the loss of the valuable flavonoids. Hence, why the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is.
According to research published on the Huffington Post, the benefits of dark chocolate include heart health, improved blood flow, skin protection, a lower risk of diabetes, improved vision, a mood boost, a quieter cough (if you’re sick) and increased satiety and feeling of fullness. According to the research from the American Heart Association, flavanols may also help protect neurons from injury and could play a role in treating stroke and dementia.
The heart health offered by chocolate comes from its link with improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels according to the Web MD. Research has shown that flavanols also benefit vascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky. In a study of people eating 1.7 ounces of chocolate a day, either dark or white, those who ate dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels (which lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes), improved LDL or “bad” cholesterol by 20%, and improved HDL or “good” cholesterol, by the end of the 15 days.
While there are many healthy benefits of dark chocolate, it doesn’t give you permission to eat a whole box or bar at one time. An ounce or two a day is plenty and any more may offer your body more health consequences than benefits. This Valentine’s Day, show yourself some love by choosing dark chocolate over light!