We’ve heard about them over and over — Those lists of yummy foods that we should skip because they aren’t healthy for us.
But now we have some good news! There’s a delicious food that may have health benefits that will surprise you!
The food is chocolate! It appears to help reduce your risk for the serious heart condition called AFib — atrial fibrillation.
AFib is the most common type of arrhythmia. That’s a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. AFib leaves a person with a higher risk for stroke, heart failure, cognitive decline, dementia and even death. AFib affects up to 6 million people in the U.S. The number is expected to grow as our population ages.
Past research has found heart health positives related to dark chocolate. Now scientists at Harvard have analyzed Danish research involving more than 3,300 men and women with AFib.
The study looked closely at chocolate’s value in reducing AFib risks. Although the study didn’t look at the type chocolate people consumed — dark or milk — the researchers did note darker chocolate contains more flavanols. That’s an antioxidant that may help promote healthy blood vessel function.
The study author, Elizabeth Mostofsky, an epidemiology instructor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, explained that the health benefits appear to come from cocoa, not milk and sugar. If you’re a milk chocolate fan, you may want to consider developing a taste for dark chocolate. For the best heart protection, choose chocolate with 70% or greater of cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more flavanols it contains.
Research shows that flavanols help reduce risk of A-Fib. Flavanols also help protect your cardiovascular system by:
What’s the evidence of chocolate’s potential to boost heart health? Researchers found these correlations between the amount of chocolate consumed and AFib risk reduction (compared to people who ate no chocolate):
A serving size is one ounce — about 3 to 4 squares of chocolate. The study results were the same for men and women.
The study authors said their research had some limitations. Factors that affect health other than chocolate consumption weren’t tracked in the study. And they found chocolate consumers tended to have lower levels of other risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.
While the study results are pretty good news for chocoholics, moderation in your diet is still stressed by the researchers. No single food improves your health on its own. When chocolate is consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern, health benefits are enhanced. Portion control is key as chocolate is high in calories — enjoy in small amounts. Balance out the calories with regular exercise and physical activity for a well-rounded healthy lifestyle.
And now you can enjoy having a little guilt-free chocolate, too!