Flavonoids in dark chocolate are a naturally occurring antioxidant similar to those found in teas, red wine, and some fruits and vegetables. These flavonoids are thought to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, and one recent study showed that 6 grams of dark chocolate a day (about one square) lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2 points each.
The study also claims that dark chocolate may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by about 5 points. Not a major effect to be sure, but pushing the “bad” cholesterol downwards. Flavonoids also benefit how the lining of the blood vessels function.
“We think a lot of bad things that happen to the cardiovascular system are because the lining of the vessels cracks and becomes inflamed, setting the stage for plaques to form and rupture,” says Robert Sheeler, M.D., a family physician at Mayo Clinic.
Don’t forget, chocolate contains calories and fat, so these findings are not an invitation to go on chocolate binge. Dr. Sheeler says just one square a day (about 30 calories) will provide the health benefits described. He recommends chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa; milk chocolate by contrast has only 15-25% cocoa, while dark chocolate can contain as much as 80%+ cocoa.
Source: Women’s HealthSource, Mayo Clinic , August, 2008