It must rank as the number one guilt food and for years has been seen as the bad boy of the sweet shop. But some Nobel Peace Prize deserving scientists have reported that Cocoa and chocolate may keep high blood pressure down, blood flowing and your heart healthy!
In America (where else?) scientists have found that eating foods high in Flavonoids (a substance found in chocolate) can help the body process Nitric Oxide, a compound crucial for healthy blood flow and blood pressure.
Flavonoids, found in high quantities in cocoa, prevent fat like substances in the blood stream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries and make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots.
Flavonoids are plant compounds with potent antioxidant propertys, with similar benefits to red wine, tea, cranberries and many other fruits and vegetables.
Chocolate is made to many different recipes and contains lots of extra ingredients in addition to cocoa products; therefore the nutritional value will vary with the ingredients.
Dark chocolate has a high proportion of cocoa solids and will therefore retain more of the nutritional value of cocoa. But in milk chocolate the milk provides a rich source of proteins which the body can use and so its protein value is higher then that of dark chocolate.
Generally dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids then milk chocolate, flavonoid rich cocoa and chocolate act in a similar way to low-dose aspirin in promoting healthy blood flow. Reducing the bloods ability to clot also reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Chocolate is made using the Theobroma Cocoa bean harvested from the cocoa tree, the beans are removed from the pod fermented, dried, roasted and then ground to produce cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. This is then pressed to yield cocoa butter and cocoa cake ( which is ground into cocoa powder) white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar , milk and flavourings, such as vanilla, whilst plain or dark chocolate is made from cocoa liquor.
There is increasing evidence from laboratory (in vitro) work that certain compounds in chocolate may have the potential to beneficially change a number of processes thought to be associated with cardiovascular disease. Although according to the scientists working in this field, much of this work still needs to be repeated in human studies, which leaves us with just one question, where do you apply for the job?!