Studies report that chocolate is good for your health, but how so and which ones? Cacao (pronounced “kuh-KOW”), cocoa, Dutch cocoa, and chocolate… what’s the difference? Here’s how it all breaks down along with the ones to eat and ones to avoid.
Cocoa and cocoa-containing foods contain high levels of flavanols (“FLAY-va-nole”) — an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and dilates (widens) blood vessels. According to extensive research, eating chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, improves the markers of cardiovascular health. Consuming flavanols from chocolate is associated with a lower rate of:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Atrial fibrillation (10 to 20% lower)
- Death from cardiovascular events
The cocoa may improve:
- Endothelial function — The endothelium is the inner lining of your arteries. Its function declines with age and puts you at increased risk for heart disease.
- Lipid levels — Lipids include your total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.
- Blood pressure
- Insulin resistance — This is when your body does not respond properly to the insulin it makes which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes puts you at risk for heart disease.
- Decrease cardiac fibrosis (scar tissue formation) as well as electrical and structural changes of the heart.