Just in time for Valentine’s Day, chocolate lovers will be excited to know they are getting some flavonoids and other compounds in chocolate that provide health benefits. Flavonoids, Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension, explains, are naturally occurring compounds in plant-based foods that serve as antioxidants protecting the human body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed in simple body processes and can increase with environmental contaminants.
A study conducted at the University of California found that persons who consumed 1.6 oz (about a regular sized candy bar) of flavonoid-rich chocolate (chocolate products that have more nonfat cocoa solids) every day for two weeks showed an expansion of the arteries and an increased blood flow of 10 percent. Participants who consumed flavonoid-poor chocolate experienced a slight decrease. Increased blood flow by means of relaxed and dilated blood vessels means reduced cardiovascular risk.
“More research is needed to determine how much chocolate is needed for health benefits. We do know that dark chocolate has the highest number of flavonoids. Until more is known, don’t feel guilty about eating chocolate as long as you don’t eat too much,” said Roberts. [Ut-oh, not surprisingly you might find that much of the research has been funded by the chocolate industry.]
For discussion of how an intake of flavonoid-rich chocolate by senior citizens is associated with better cognitive test performance go here.