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Health Benefits in a Heart-Shaped Box

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Health Benefits in a Heart-Shaped Box

Research cites chocolate as a powerful superfood, with positive effects on cholesterol and blood pressure. Read on to learn about its heart-health properties.

What do Valentine’s Day and heart health have in common? Chocolate, of course! So what better month than February to highlight the many heart and other health benefits of this popular Valentine’s Day gift?

Although we’ve been giving (and given) assorted chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for decades, these caramel- and sea foam-filled goodies aren’t the ones you want to eat if you intend to experience chocolate’s health benefits. It’s primarily the dark chocolates rich in cocoa polyphenols that provide the most health benefits.

Recent research has cited chocolate as a powerful superfood, with positive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and arterial plaque. In a 2011 study researchers analyzed cocoa polyphenols’ effects on cholesterol and noted that the polyphenols in chocolate not only increased HDL (good) cholesterol, but they also reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Further, a study from British Medical Journal cited that those who consumed the most chocolate were 37 percent less likely to develop heart disease and 29 percent likely to suffer a stroke than those who consumed the least amount of chocolate.

But chocolate’s health benefits extend beyond the heart. Research suggests that chocolate consumption may also benefit skin, brain function, digestion, and even eyesight, among other things.

So don’t feel guilty next time you break off a piece and indulge. Just 1 oz (28 g) of dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent cocoa is enough to give your health a boost. But as we’ve seen in recent studies, a little more won’t hurt you!

Cooking with chocolate is another way to obtain your daily dose of polyphenols. The following recipes feature chocolate in decadent and sometimes unlikely ways.

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