Eat Chocolate. Prevent Heart Disease.

But before you head to the low-bar ‘chocolates’ found at the check out area of nearly every store (even those not selling ‘food’..but that’s another story…), keep in mind that there’s a huge difference between those and the real deal:  raw, dark chocolate. That’s the one that can help prevent against heart disease and cancer…and you’re not going to get that from eating a Snickers Bar. Three studies of note which focused on this topic include:

  1. Michelle Roberts, Cocoa nutrient for ‘lethal ills’ (BBC NEWS: 2007/03/11)
  2. Mark J. Payne, W. Jeffrey Hurst, Kenneth B. Miller, Craig Rank, and David A. Stuart, Impact of Fermentation, Drying, Roasting, and Dutch Processing on Epicatechin and Catechin Content of Cacao Beans and Cocoa Ingredients (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2010 58 (19), 10518-10527)
  3. Bayard V, Chamorro F, Motta J, Hollenberg NK. Does Flavanol Intake Influence Mortality from Nitric Oxide-Dependent Processes? Ischemic Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cancer in Panama. (Int J Med Sci 2007; 4(1):53-58.)

Some important findings:

  • A flavonoid in chocolate, epicatechin, seems to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow.
  • Roasting and alkalizing lowers these excellent nutrients;  there is a noticeable loss of epicatechin when heated above 158 °F.  Why roast?   Consumer demand; raw chocolate tends to have a slightly bitter flavor which, unfortunately isn’t what most sweet-toothed shoppers are interested in.
  • An interesting study done by researchers from Harvard Medical School found that Kuna Indians living on the islands drink chocolate as a staple part of their daily diet and have lower rates of heart disease and cancer compared to other people living on the mainland in Panama who don’t drink nearly as much chocolate and have higher rates of these diseases.

Need a good recommendation?  One of my faves is the Xochipilli 100% bar.  Alternatively, I’ve found raw, 100% ‘baking’ chocolate in the aisle at Whole Foods- fair trade, nothing added… that’ll do!