Eating chocolate can reduce heart disease risk – but amount is key

I’ve long advocated good-quality dark chocolate in moderation as a health-promoting indulgence, and new research adds further weight to the many studies which support this view.

Scientists exploring the association between chocolate consumption and heart health in almost 32,000 Swedish women, aged between 48 and 83, found that those who had one or two small servings a week reduced their risk of heart failure by 32%. However, this fell to 26% when only one to three servings a month were consumed – and to nothing when chocolate was eaten every day. So eating too little – or too much – doesn’t have the same positive effect.

Cocoa is rich in antioxidant nutrients called flavonoids – and it’s these compounds which are believed to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure. The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the greater the flavonoid content. So eating 70% dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, which can contain 20% or less cocoa solids. When combined with milk, the antioxidants also appear to have a less potent effect, so opt for dark – and preferably organic – chocolate and enjoy a few pieces a few times a week. 100% Health members can visit my newsletter archives to download an article about the benefits for chocolate, plus some tasty – and healthy – recipes in my March 2008 newsletter. If you’re not yet a member but would like access to my archive of newsletters and my advice articles plus many other benefits please click here to find out more about membership.