Originally found at: MSN Health with WebMD

Which Chocolate Is Healthiest for Heart?

Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal; Dark Is Best
By  Jeanie Lerche Davis 
Reviewed By  Michael  Smith, MD
on Friday, January 31, 2003
WebMD Medical News

Jan. 31, 2003 -- Our favorite food group -- chocolate -- has received a blessing from the nation's nutritionists. A review of recent studies finds, indeed, that dark chocolate is good for your heart. Researchers say the flavonoids in cocoa and chocolate can lower your risk of heart disease.

The main ingredient of both chocolate and cocoa, cocoa butter, has plenty of saturated fat, but the remaining fat may make up for some -- or possibly all -- the negatives, say the researchers.

Unsaturated fatty acids found in cocoa butter are full of flavonoids, nutrients that have been reported to decrease LDL "bad" cholesterol, thereby reducing risk of heart disease, writes researcher Francene M. Steinberg, PhD, RD, in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Dark chocolates offer the best health benefits, with high concentrations of heart-healthy flavonoids.

"Cocoa contains the same nutrients found in other plant foods, including minerals and specific antioxidants that help ward off diseases such as heart disease," says registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Althea Zanecosky, in a news release.

"In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil, makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate and has been shown to be beneficial for heart health," says Zanecosky.

Chocolate's heart-improvement record dates back to 17th century Europe, when it was praised for its healing powers. "They believed that chocolate 'comforted the liver, aided in digestion and made one happy and strong,'" she says.

Chocolate was also used for stimulating the kidneys and treating anemia, tuberculosis, fever and gout, Zanecosky adds. "It was also viewed as a way to strengthen the heart and relieve heart pain."

Best to keep your chocolate intake moderate, she points out. Healthy eating means incorporating a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods including fruits and vegetables, teas, and red wine.

SOURCES: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, February 2003 • News release, American Dietetic Association.

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