Eating the Right Chocolate Protects Your Heart

Chocolate lovers who were rejected from a Johns Hopkins University study on aspirin and heart disease helped researchers accidentally find an explanation for why small amounts of chocolate can cut the risk of heart attack.

Chocolate, like aspirin, has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.

Some 139 "chocolate offenders" were volunteers taking part in a 1,200-person study. The subjects were all asked to stay on a strict regimen of exercise, and to avoid smoking, caffeinated drinks, wine, grapefruit juice and chocolate, all of which are known to affect heart disease risks. The 139 cheated on their diet regimen by eating chocolate.

Although they were removed from the aspirin study, the researchers looked at their blood nonetheless. Those who ate chocolate not only had lower levels of a platelet waste product (thromboxane) in their urine, but their blood clotted more slowly than samples taken from the non-chocolate-eating patients.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Here's a great example of making lemonade from lemons, at last pointing toward the mechanism by which properly processed chocolate can indeed be good for your heart. Patients derive the heart-healthy benefits of chocolate from consuming the purest form: Minimally-processed dark chocolate.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow about eating chocolate:

If you eat chocolate, only eat DARK chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidant properties, which can actually help to protect the body from damaging oxidative stress.

It also is far better than milk chocolate, as adding milk cancels out the chocolate's antioxidant effects. However, please understand that just because chocolate is dark, it does not mean it is healthy. Most cocoa is processed in ways that destroy the majority of the beneficial polyphenolic bioflavanoids. But you can safely assume that all milk and white chocolate does not have these beneficial nutrients.

Only eat chocolate if you're healthy. Chocolate, even if it is dark, still contains large quantities of sugar, and eating sugar has a profoundly negative influence on your immune system. So the key point here is that if you are sick, the absolute last thing you want to do is eat any sugars. You want to keep your diet as absolutely clean as possible. That is NOT the time to cheat on your diet.

Consume it in moderation. A small bit of chocolate can be very satisfying if you savor each bite, rather than just wolfing it down. Also, if you are constantly craving sweets, you are likely not eating the correct balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates for your nutritional type.

If you tend to crave chocolate when you are upset, bored or lonely, then you could benefit from resolving these underlying emotional issues (and we all have them) that are driving you to seek comfort from chocolate.

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