The alleged health benefits of chocolate have circulated the news in recent years, but new research shows that not just any old chocolate will do. A recent Swedish study suggests that chocolate with high cocoa content — like the kind commonly sold in Europe — contains the high flavanol content that provides heart benefits.
According to the study, women who consume one to three servings of high-cocoa chocolate a month cut their risk of heart failure by 26 percent over nine years, and women who eat one or two servings a week cut their risk by 32 percent.
On the flip side, too much chocolate consumption can be harmful depending on what type it is. The refined sugar and fat content in some conventional chocolates can lead to health problems if consumed excessively, and heavily processed chocolate is not as effective and rich in nutrients as is chocolate in its more natural form.
European chocolate is richer in cocoa content than it is in the U.S. because European standards for chocolate content are higher. The average chocolate bar in Europe has about 30 percent cocoa content while a U.S. chocolate bar can contain as little as 15 percent, which is important to consider when evaluating which type of chocolate to eat.
The most beneficial form of chocolate is the kind that is closest to its raw, natural form, with high cocoa content and no refined sugar. Organic, dark, high-cocoa chocolate made with a little bit of natural sugar is one of the best bets for a sweet, healthy treat.
“Organic dark chocolate is the only kind I will eat and only if it’s at least 85 percent pure organic dark chocolate with a very low amount of natural sugar,” explains Gregory A. Gore in his book Defeat Cancer.