Experts agree that, in moderation, chocolate may have heart-health benefits. The reason? The cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as vegetables and fruits. We also benefit from their antioxidant power when we eat foods rich in flavonoids.
Flavanols are the main type of flavonoids found in chocolate and cocoa. Research shows that flavanols have other potential influences besides antioxidant qualities on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.
Not all types of chocolate are healthy as some forms contain lower levels of flavanols. The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.) the more flavanols are lost. Your best bet is dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that has loads of added fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). I always thought Dutch chocolate was a better grade of cocoa.
The caveat here is still “in moderation.” An ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week is best. Remember to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like cranberries, tea, apples, onions and, if appropriate, red wine.