As we find ourselves surrounded by heart-shaped chocolate boxes and seasonal sweets, it’s easy to start developing persistent cravings for them. We can find solace in the fact that one type of chocolate in its purest form can actually be heart-healthy, assigning a whole new significance to the Valentine’s Day treat.
Dark chocolate for heart health
At some point in time, you may have heard of dark chocolate as a source of antioxidants. These antioxidants are known as dietary flavonoids, and the subtype found in dark chocolate, flavanols, have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. A study conducted by research teams at Harvard indicates that dark chocolate can protect against heart attacks and failure, and even a particular condition known as atrial fibrillation.
Cocoa, cacao or carob?
In addition to shade/color and taste, chocolate also varies in flavanol content. The amount of flavanols present in chocolate is determined by the type of seed used to create it. The more commonly used cocoa is ground, roasted and heavily processed to remove the natural bitterness, which is primarily due to the flavanols. Commercially-derived cocoa is much sweeter, thus containing few traces of the heart-healthy antioxidant. Cacao, on the other hand, comes from raw seeds that are abundant in flavanols. Chocolate made with cacao tends to carry an earthier, more bitter taste. Carob, often used as an alternative to chocolate, packs its own set of benefits. High in fiber and the antioxidant polyphenol, carob is associated with reducing high cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Three tricks to help identify quality dark chocolate
LONGEVITY-APPROVED CHOCOLATE CARAMEL BITES
Ingredients for dark chocolate:
Directions for dark chocolate:
Ingredients for caramel drizzle:
Directions for caramel drizzle:
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