For years, chocolate lovers have been wondering if their favorite treat is good for their heart. While many people believe that chocolate is unhealthy, others think it is actually beneficial for heart health. But what does the scientific evidence say? Finally, the FDA has an answer.
The FDA, which is responsible for regulating food and drugs in the United States, recently released a statement regarding the relationship between chocolate and heart health. According to the FDA, "Dark chocolate, made from the seed of the cocoa tree, is one of the richest sources of flavonoids, which are natural compounds that have antioxidant properties."
So, what are flavonoids and why are they important for heart health? Flavonoids are a group of natural compounds that are found in many different types of fruits, vegetables, and spices. They are known for their antioxidant properties, which help to protect the body against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This oxidative damage has been linked to various health problems, including heart disease.
One of the most important types of flavonoids found in chocolate is called epicatechin. Studies have shown that epicatechin can help to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, epicatechin can also help to protect against oxidative damage, which can contribute to heart disease and other health problems.
While all types of chocolate contain some flavonoids, dark chocolate is the richest source. This is because dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids than other types of chocolate. To get the most health benefits from chocolate, the FDA recommends choosing dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids.
In addition to its flavonoid content, dark chocolate also contains other important nutrients such as magnesium, iron, and fiber. These nutrients can also help to improve heart health in different ways. For example, magnesium has been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow, while iron is important for the formation of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the heart.
However, it's important to keep in mind that chocolate is still a high-calorie food, and consuming too much can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for heart disease. The FDA recommends eating dark chocolate in moderation, and avoiding chocolate that is high in added sugar, fat, and calories.
In conclusion, the FDA's statement on the relationship between chocolate and heart health is good news for chocolate lovers. According to the FDA, dark chocolate is a rich source of flavonoids, which have been shown to improve heart health in several ways. However, it's important to eat chocolate in moderation and choose dark chocolate that is high in cocoa solids and low in added sugar, fat, and calories. So, go ahead and enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, knowing that it may be good for your heart!
In conclusion, the evidence suggests that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can be good for your heart. By consuming dark chocolate in moderation, you can enjoy its health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and protection against oxidative damage. So, go ahead and enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, knowing that it may be good for your heart!
In Europe, chocolate maker Barry Callebaut, the company that petitioned the FDA, is already allowed to use a health claim on dark chocolate products stating that cocoa flavanols have a positive impact on blood flow. The company calls the FDA's action in the U.S. a "major milestone" in the development of cocoa as an ingredient that could be blended or added to a range of products. "This presents an opportunity to develop and enhance better-for-you products leveraging high-flavanol cocoa powder, especially in the (sports) beverage and protein mix categories," wrote Hugo Van Der Goes, Vice President Cocoa North America at Barry Callebaut, in a statement. Callebaut already sells a cocoa powder that the company says qualifies for the new health claim.
Some chocolate lovers may push back against the idea of sports drinks infused with cocoa. Nat Bletter, who operates Madre Chocolate in Hawaii, and makes a minimally-processed chocolate, high in antioxidants, says while some chocolate connoisseurs are interested in health benefits, others are all about the taste. "They sometimes want to feel like they're sinning a little bit when they're eating chocolate," he says. He likes to help his customers get the most out of every bite by using all their senses when they eat chocolate. "Don't just taste it," Bletter says. "You can smell it before you put it in your mouth." And you don't have to chew it right away. "Let it melt on your tongue and see if you can get all the different flavors," he says.
Just like wine, chocolate can have lots of unique and interesting flavors, so the aim is to relish it.
"People need to have some fun and enjoy it," Gardner says and not get too hung up on the evidence for, or against health claims.
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