Chocoholics' delight: Hot chocolate, dark chocolate better choices for heart health

For Valentine’s Day, consider skipping the chocolate candy and replacing it with a cup of dark hot cocoa.

 “Research suggests that drinking a cup of dark hot chocolate can be equated with drinking a glass of wine in protecting the heart,” says Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center who urges people to eat and drink in moderation.

If you can’t resist eating chocolate or giving it as a gift, choose the right type of chocolate to benefit your heart, Ms. Sandon says.

Pure chocolate, made from cocoa beans, is rich in flavanol, an antioxidant that may help protect arteries from damage, maintain healthy blood flow and fend off heart disease.

Dark chocolate and baking cocoa retain most of the original cocoa bean and are excellent sources of polyphenols, a class of compounds that includes flavanols. Chocolate in its more processed form, however, is loaded with extra oils, milk and sugars that combine to lower its level of polyphenols.

A bar of dark chocolate weighing about 1.5 ounces contains approximately 950 milligrams of antioxidants, while a similar bar of milk chocolate contains about only about 400 milligrams. White chocolate is a confection of fat and sugar and contains no antioxidants. Candy bars and boxed chocolates may be tasty, but their added fat and calories make them less healthy treats, Ms. Sandon says.

 “Chocolate by itself may provide some health benefits. It’s what is added to it that’s not so good for us.” Ms. Sandon says.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/nutrition to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in nutrition.

February is American Heart Month.

Media Contact:
Katherine Morales

Return to February 2010 News Tips

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