Support your heart’s health with chocolate

Yep, that’s right, chocolate: that oh-so-indulgent treat that makes women around the world swoon. But it’s not the convenience store candy bar or the box of chocolate-covered cherries that best support your heart. It’s the dark and cocoa powder varieties that work best.

When you surf the shelves for the best chocolate, keep this in mind: Chocolate is basically made of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. The percentage you see on the front of the package is the ratio of cocoa and cocoa butter compared to the rest of the ingredients. Check the ingredient label as well, many manufacturers add extra sugars, preservatives, and fillings like nuts, fruits, and creams that can add extra calories you don’t need.

Dark chocolate and cocoa powders are rich in flavonoids, which have been shown to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and lower your blood pressure. So when you choose a bar with a higher cocoa percentage, you are also getting more flavonoids and helping your heart stay healthy.

There are six different types of flavonoids found in food, and each kind is broken down by your body in a different way. Flavonoids are rich in antioxidant activity and can help your body ward off everyday toxins.

In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who ate one serving of chocolate per week (about one ounce) were 60 percent less likely to die from heart disease. Also, their levels of carotid atherosclerotic plaques (the stuff that clogs the artery in your neck, which supplies your brain with oxygenated blood) were significantly lower.

However, many chocolate manufacturers process the treat over and over again, causing the materials to lose some of its antioxidant properties. And white varieties, they have no flavonoids whatsoever; it’s made with no cocoa solids at all, only cocoa butter and sugar at it’s basic level.

But don’t rush out, grabbing for all the dark chocolate you can get! Women who eat it every day had comparable results to those that ate it once per week.

Remember: moderation is key, and the darker the better. If chocolate is not your thing; there are other foods rich in flavonoids, too. Try some red wine, tea, cranberries, and apples.

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