The heart of the matter – chocolate

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   4th Apr 2018

Is chocolate good for your heart? Is dark chocolate better?

Wednesday, 04 April 2018

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart health to help you make informed decisions about your health. One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether chocolate, particularly dark chocolate is good for your heart?

According to Sarah Noone, our expert dietitian, while several studies that have looked at the link between chocolate and the heart with some concluding that eating chocolate may even be good for your heart, (unfortunately) the fact is that while it may be tempting to believe the hype, the results simply are not conclusive enough.

While it may be tempting to believe the hype, the results simply are not conclusive enough.

.

Here comes the science bit

Sarah explained that while cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate, contain naturally occurring polyphenols and there has been some evidence to suggest that polyphenols found in cocoa extracts have heart health benefits. However she also warned that the potential health benefit of some compounds in chocolate have to be weighed against the fact that, chocolate is also high in sugar, saturated fat and calories and too much can result in excess weight gain, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

“Dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids and cocoa butter than milk chocolate, but the amount of polyphenols depends on how the chocolate is processed, so it’s not necessarily better."

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

What about dark chocolate?

“Dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids and cocoa butter than milk chocolate, but the amount of polyphenols depends on how the chocolate is processed, so it’s not necessarily better,” Sarah explained.

However, she said that the “good news” was that fruit and vegetables, such as dark green vegetables, berries and beetroot were also a source of polyphenols and they also provide a range of other vitamins, minerals and fibre without the sugar, fat and calories of chocolate.
(Although in fairness the idea of a beetroot Easter Egg isn’t particularly appetising.)

In conclusion Sarah advised that eating healthily was not about excluding or including single foods.
“It’s about eating a wide range of foods in the right proportions and above all enjoying your food. So if you like chocolate have some every now and then as part of a balanced diet just because you like it. Eaten too frequently, it is an unhealthy choice.”

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