The study focused on 33,000 Swedish women between the ages of 49 and 83 who had no history of a stroke, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. The participants completed a survey on diet and lifestyle indicators, and what researchers found was that those who ate an average of two candy bars per week had a 20 percent reduced chance of having a stroke.
The reason is that cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate, contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants in the body. They help to keep “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which can contribute to strokes.
But reduced stroke risk in women isn’t the only cardiovascular benefit of chocolate. Other studies have shown that chocolate can reduce your heart disease risk by one-third. Another study showed that cocoa can help you lose weight.
This adds to all of the good health news about chocolate that you’ve heard me talk about in the past. Studies have shown that moderate intakes of cocoa and dark chocolate are also linked to improved cognitive function, mood, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity—along with the reduced risk of diabetes, nerve injury, and UV radiation damage.
What’s the best way to eat chocolate? I recommend choosing dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants. You want to look for chocolate bars that contain 70 percent cocoa or more. Unsweetened dark chocolate is extremely bitter, and even sweetened it can be an acquired taste. Because of its fat and sugar content, dark chocolate is quite calorie dense, so don’t go overboard—and eat it in place of, rather than in addition to, other foods or snacks.
Now it’s your turn: How often do you eat dark chocolate?