What are the health, financial benefits of dark chocolate?

Recent scientific evidence shows that people who consume a small amount of dark chocolate every day can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the cocoa bean contains a compound called flavanols. Flavanols have been proven to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. This plant chemical is also found in cranberries, apples, onions, tea and red wine.

Unfortunately, not all chocolate products are the same. Most contain unhealthy sugars and are packed with calories. Pure cocoa has a very strong, distinct taste, which comes from the flavanols.

In order to make chocolate, the cocoa goes through several stages to reduce the taste. The more the chocolate is processed, the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolate falls under this category.

When selecting a “healthier” type of chocolate, a Wall Street Journal notes that looking at the percentage of cocoa can determine the percentage of flavanols. Chocolate containing 10% cocoa is highly processed and contains high amounts of sugar, typically milk chocolate. On average, dark chocolate contains 50-60% cocoa.

Eating a square piece of dark chocolate, once a day, has shown to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent, according to a study conducted in Germany. This said, dark chocolate shouldn’t serve as a diet supplement; regular exercise is also encouraged to help lead a heart healthy lifestyle.

Healthy lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of serious heart conditions result in lower life insurance premiums and less expensive medical costs.

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