Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Are all dark chocolates good for the heart?

Ask the doctor

Are all dark chocolates good for the heart?

Q. Dark chocolate is supposed to be good for the heart. But how do I know which chocolate is "dark"? Some labels list percent dark chocolate, others percent cocoa solids. Can you help me pick the best one?

A. Chocolate makers are promoting dark chocolates to cash in on two different trends. One is a growing demand for "gourmet" chocolates, described in mouth-watering detail by food writer Bill Buford in his essay, "Extreme Chocolate," in the October 29, 2007, New Yorker. The other trend has to do with the growing perception that chocolate improves blood flow through arteries nourishing the heart, brain, and other parts of the body.

Chocolate's artery-opening activity is attributed to compounds called flavanols that are abundant in cacao beans, as well as in onions, apples, berries, beans, and some types of tea.

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