Dark days ahead

I never get tired of seeing my patients’ eyes widen in disbelief when I tell them that they should eat more chocolate. But it really is one of the healthiest substances on earth–if you’re indulging in the right kind, of course. More on that in just a minute. First, let me give you the inside scoop on the most recent findings, published recently in the British Medical Journal.

A group of researchers at Cambridge University combed through seven major studies of chocolate involving over 114,000 participants.

They found a significantly reduced risk of heart disease and related disorders among people who ate the most chocolate.

That’s right…people who indulged in chocolate had less risk of cardiovascular disease (37 percent), diabetes (31 percent), and stroke (29 percent).

Even after researchers took into account the participants’ age, physical activity, body mass index, smoking status, and other dietary factors, they still found that higher levels of chocolate intake lowered these risks.

The secret in chocolate is the polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) found naturally in cocoa. Researchers theorize these natural compounds trigger a whole slew of improvements in cells and blood vessels, which ultimately lead to better blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cholesterol levels.

However, as the researchers point out, the vast majority of chocolate is packed with sugar. But there’s a simple way to avoid that pitfall–switch to dark chocolate (if you haven’t already).  And the darker the better!

In fact, unsweetened cocoa offers more health benefits than blueberries and pomegranates. Of course, it doesn’t taste all that great on its own. But if you add a little stevia, you can still indulge in all that decadent chocolate flavor–and get all the health benefits–with none of the harmful effects of sugar.