Cocoa contains polyphenols and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that appear to protect our cells from damage caused by environmental contaminants that can hike “bad” cholesterol. And recent studies show that flavonoids reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, thereby lowering the risk of blood clots and coronary artery blockages. Flavonoids also make blood vessels more flexible and may help reduce blood pressure.

Know these facts, too: Most chocolate is highly processed and has therefore lost most of its heart-healthy flavonoids. The fat in many chocolate treats outweighs any benefits you might get. If you do indulge your chocolate cravings, check the label and choose quality dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa solids. Avoid products with a label that reads “produced with alkali,” which are low in flavonoids.

To figure your risk of developing heart disease, use our Heart Disease Risk Tool

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