Happy Valentine’s Day from the Health Sciences Library Staff! Spend some time with your loved ones today if you can! Since it’s still February, here is some heart-healthy information courtesy of The Cleveland Clinic, just in time for the sweetest of all holidays.
Flavonoids are compounds found in many plants that provide an antioxidant defense against environmental toxins and help to repair damage. There are may types of flavonoids; Flavanols are the main type found in the cocoa bean. Flavanols are responsible for giving cocoa its bitter and pungent flavor. During cocoa bean processing, flavanols may be lost (through roasting, fermenting, etc.) in an effort to reduce this taste.
Dark Chocolate, depending on how it was processed, tends to have higher levels of flavanols than milk chocolate, resulting in the stronger taste. The higher the natural cocoa content, the more flavanols will be in the chocolate! When we consume plants-turned-foods rich in flavonoids we benefit from their antioxidant power too. As in plants, antioxidants help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes (like breathing) and from environmental radicals (like cigarette smoke). Inadequate levels of antioxidants can lead to an increase in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on the walls of the arteries.
Research has indicated that flavanols have many positive influences on our vascular health. They may lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart, make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, and lower cholesterol.
Fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of equal parts of oleic acid (found in olive oil), stearic acid (which has a neutral effect on cholesterol) and palmitic acid (only makes up 1/3 of fat calories in chocolate). So, if you avoid the extra add-ins (like caramel and marshmallow) that raise the fat content in chocolate, an ounce or so of Dark Chocolate a few times per week could be considered healthy for you!