Dark Chocolate: What the Heart Desires

No ingredient in Zing Bars is there by accident. When we developed our bars, we thought long and hard about the quality, quantity and type of ingredients that would promote health, energy and satisfaction. And you thought that the Peruvian organic, fair trade chocolate in our Bars was only there to make the bar taste phenomenal!

The great news is that dark chocolate is a wonderfully health promoting food. It is a very rich source of antioxidants called flavanols which are found in many fruits and vegetables. It also contains high levels of other antioxidants like quercetin and epicatechin.

The antioxidant potential of food is often measured by a score called ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). Examples of foods with high ORAC scores include blueberries and green tea. Dark chocolate has a significantly higher ORAC value than both blueberries and green tea.

This antioxidant potential means that dark chocolate can be very protective for our arteries and reduce risk of heart disease and stroke. A German observational study that followed 20,000 middle aged men and women for 10 years detected a 39 percent decrease in risk of stroke and heart attack in those who ate a small square of dark chocolate each day.

The dark chocolate seems to achieve these results by reducing blood clotting, lowering C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation that is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke) and reducing blood pressure. There are many studies that have shown these effects in different countries and among different aged populations.

A study at Oxford University showed that dark chocolate may protect older adults from cognitive decline. It may actually increase blood flow to the brain and thus enhance cognitive function.

The studies on dark chocolate continue and the results are consistently exciting. But before you rush out and eat a slab of chocolate a day, make sure you are clear on the following:

  • Make sure you are choosing a dark chocolate with as few ingredients as possible.  Core ingredients are cocoa, sugar, cocoa butter and lecithin.  Beware of hydrogenated oils (trans fats), artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors.
  • All chocolate contains calories and is very palatable and thus easy to overeat. You will offset the health benefits if you are eating too much chocolate and gaining weight.
  • Enjoy eating antioxidants from a wide variety of foods – don’t rely on any one food for your antioxidant intake. Zing Bars contain many ingredients that are high in antioxidants. So have a chocolate coated Zing Bar, or dip some strawberries into dark chocolate, or stir some cocoa into your next smoothie and enjoy!

References:

Estroff Marano, Hara. “The Scoop on Chocolate.”  Psychology Today. March/April 2011: 44-45. Print.

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