Chocolate’s health benefits


(CNN) — Are you thinking of something sweet for your valentine this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps a box of chocolates? The rich indulgence could be a great way to show some love to your heart as well.

Not only is chocolate a sweet way of showing some love, but there are other benefits.

“Chocolate’s more than just a matter of the heart for what we give to people that we love,” said registered dietitian Tamara Melton. “Chocolate has nutrients in it that can help us to protect our heart. They’re called flavonols and they help to increase the blood flow to your heart. It also helps your body to reduce the amount of plaque that will stick on your arterial walls, so it’s not gonna lead to clots that’ll eventually lead to a heart attack and then a stroke.”

But not all chocolate is heart healthy.

“If you’re looking for the healthier versions of chocolate, look for the term ‘dark chocolate’,” said Melton. “That’s going to be on the label, and then look for a higher percentage.”

Other benefits of cocoa powder, the main ingredient of dark chocolate, may include raising good cholesterol levels, the high density lipids or HDL, while lowering bad cholesterol levels, the low density lipids or LDL.

Dark chocolate with at least 70-percent cacao contains fiber and is high in antioxidants.

“Antioxidants are really important because they help to protect us against certain diseases like cancer, and macular degeneration from aging,” said Melton.

Chocolate can be part of a heart healthy lifestyle but in small portions. You still have to count calories. For example, a serving of miniature Hershey’s Special Dark, five of them, is around 200 calories.

Enjoy, but in moderation.

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