If your Valentine's Day plans involve picking out a box of chocolates for someone special, your best choice for your loved one's heart might be dark chocolate. The cacao bean contains more than 400 chemicals, and many of them can affect human health. One group of chemicals, the flavonoids, are responsible for many of the protective actions of dark chocolate, reports the February issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.
Flavonoids are present in many healthful foods, like apples and cherries, but dark chocolate is the richest source. So it's no surprise that chocolate has attracted the interest of scientists from around the world, giving the research an international flavor. Most studies have concentrated on cardiovascular health; here are some representative findings:
Antioxidant activity. Among other beneficial actions, flavonoids protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which puts the "bad" into "bad cholesterol." Dark chocolate reduces LDL oxidation while actually increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
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