Dark chocolate in moderation can have beneficial effects on your health
Flavanols, a type of phytochemicals found in cocoa, tea, some fruits and vegetables and red wine have shown to improve cardiovascular health in several clinical trials conducted by King’s Lecturer in Nutrition, Dr Ana Rodriguez-Mateos and her collaborators at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany.
In two randomized controlled trials, cocoa flavanol consumption was found to lower blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, improve blood flow and the function of the blood vessels and reduce blood cholesterol in 142 healthy individuals.
A more recent study, published this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has also shown that theobromine and caffeine, also present in cocoa and chocolate, enhance the beneficial vascular effects of flavanols likely through increasing the absorption of flavanols in the blood.
Speaking about flavanols and the consumption of chocolate, Dr Rodriguez-Mateos says:
Flavanol levels in chocolate depend a lot on how the chocolate is made as a lot can be degraded through processing. It also depends on the bean variety and origin. Usually dark chocolate with a high content in cocoa (70% or more) has higher content in flavanols than milk chocolate, whereas white chocolate has no flavanols.
Unprocessed raw cocoa powder is the best source of cocoa flavanols but also dark chocolate has significant amounts. However, chocolate is also rich in calories, saturated fat and sugar, so should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet, which can include other sources of flavanols such as tea, apples, berries or red wine.