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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


dark chocolate with nutsDark chocolate a healthy gift for Valentine’s Day

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


Chocolate has always been a favorite gift to give for Valentine’s Day. This year, consider giving a gift that may benefit the heart of the person you are giving it to — dark chocolate.


Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which provide many health benefits including preventing cholesterol from gathering in the blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots and slowing down the immune response that leads to clogged arteries.


In a study conducted by University of California, San Francisco, researchers gave one group of people a Dove dark chocolate bar every day for two weeks. The second group got a Dove bar with the flavonoids removed. The group that received chocolate with flavonoids showed improvement in blood vessel function. This improvement increases blood flow to the arteries, which is good for the heart.


In a study conducted in Germany, researchers gave participants a small piece of dark chocolate (about the size of a Hershey’s kiss) daily. A control group received white chocolate. All had their blood pressure monitored for 18 weeks. The group that ate the dark chocolate saw a decrease in systolic (top number) blood pressure by 2.9 and diastolic (bottom number) by 1.9. There was no change in the group eating the white chocolate.


Another blood pressure study conducted by Tufts University showed a significant decrease in blood pressure after participants ate a 3.5-ounce chocolate bar every day for two weeks.


Although dark chocolate does have benefits, it’s also important to note that it is high in calories. It should not take the place of other important foods like fruits and vegetables which also contain flavonoids. There is no definitive recommendation for a daily amount, except that it should be a small amount — for example, 1 ounce, which is about four Hershey’s kisses.


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Last update: Thursday, February 13, 2014