Cocoa is loaded with compounds called flavonoids, which are also found in cranberries, apples, strawberries, onions, tea, and red wine, placing chocolate in excellent company. The particular class of flavonoids found in cocoa are called flavanols, and the flavanols in cocoa prevent fatlike substances in the bloodstream form clogging the arteries. When you reduce the blood’s ability to clot, you also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. An extra bonus, cocoa also contains magnesium, one of the most important minerals for heart health. Flavanols also modulate a compound in the body called nitric oxide, which is crucial for healthy blood flow and healthy blood pressure and is a very important compound in the area of cardiovascular health. But here’s the thing: This endorsement of chocolate comes with a very big qualification. We’re not talking about commercial chocolate bars or those chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered candy bars. The health benefits are found in real cocoa – in fact, that’s the stuff than makes cocoa kind of bitter. You’ll see the best of these bars with labels that say things like “60 percent cocoa” (70 percent or higher is even better, but much harder to find). Milk and white chocolate have virtually none of these health benefits. Note: Health benefits aside, chocolate is not for everyone. It seems to trigger addictive eating behavior in some people.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of The 150 Heal