All the sweet things in life—candy, cookies, cake, ice cream—are not typically what we have in mind when we think of food that is good for our health. In fact, we're often told we should limit our intake of these delicious foods, and instead eat something more "healthy," like fruits and vegetables. But there's one snack that falls into this tasty food group that you don't have to feel guilty about eating. Research has shown that eating one type of sweet treat every day could lower your heart disease risk. Read on to find out which decadent dessert you should actually be including in your diet.
Eating up to 100 grams of chocolate every day lowers heart disease risk.
A 2015 study published in the Heart journal looked at how chocolate impacts heart health. The researchers analyzed nearly 12 years worth of data for more than 20,900 adults from Norfolk, England, who were taking part in a longer study tracking the impact of diet on long-term health. Of those studied, 20 percent said they did not eat chocolate, while others had a daily consumption averaging about 7 grams per day, with some eating up to 100 grams each day. According to the study, higher chocolate intake was linked to a 12 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who didn't eat chocolate. The researchers also found that chocolate was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of hospital admission or death as a result of coronary heart disease.
And it can lower your heart attack risk.
The researchers also looked at the risk of coronary heart disease event—which included heart attacks, unstable angina, and stable angina—by including a systematic review of nine studies that featured nearly 158,000 participants. The meta-analysis portion of the 2015 study found that there was a "significantly lower risk for any cardiovascular event," with those consuming higher amounts of chocolate having a 25 percent lower risk of having a heart attack, unstable angina, or stable angina. Furthermore, there was a 45 percent lower risk of associated death with any coronary heart disease event.
Eating chocolate can also lower your risk of having a stroke.
Chocolate has even more health benefits worth noting. According to the study, higher consumption of chocolate also lowered stroke risk. The researchers found that higher chocolate intake was linked to a 23 percent lower risk of stroke and a 15 reduced risk for stroke-related mortality. Combining the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, the researchers found there was a 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 25 percent lower risk of death associated with cardiovascular disease.
"There does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk," the researchers concluded.
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Researchers say chocolate is full of heart-healthy nutrients.
Many experts have noted the health benefits of chocolate. According to the Mayo Clinic, the flavonoids in cocoa beans have antioxidants effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease, as well as help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. And these benefits don't necessarily have to come from dark chocolate—which often gets praised as being healthier than milk chocolate.
"It has been suggested that dark chocolate may have more beneficial effects than milk chocolate. Milk chocolate was more frequently consumed than dark chocolate in this cohort. However, we still observed a reduced risk," the 2015 researchers stated in their study. "This may indicate that not only flavonoids, but also other compounds—possibly related to milk constituents such as calcium and fatty acids—may provide an explanation for the observed association."
But you should still be cautious about adding too much commercial chocolate into your diet.
The Mayo Clinic does caution that you should still only add chocolate into your diet in moderation, however. "Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. And too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes," the experts at the Mayo Clinic explain. "On the other hand, cocoa itself, unlike chocolate, is low in sugar and fat while offering potential health benefits. If you enjoy chocolate flavor, add plain cocoa to your low-fat milk or morning oats."