Are There Heart Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate?

Are There Heart Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate?

The short answer: not really. Read on to find out why—and how to get the health benefits a different way! If you’re a dark chocolate lover, hearing that your favorite treat might boost heart health was probably a dream come true—and maybe even sounded a little too good to be true! The reality: while it’s okay to enjoy chocolate in moderation as a treat, it’s not the chocolate that’s good for you. It’s actually the bioactives in the cocoa bean that help support healthy blood flow to your heart and brain. So exactly what are these bioactives and how can they benefit cardiovascular health? Before we discuss bioactives, let’s learn about flavonoids. “Flava-who?” you say? Here’s the scoop!

What are Flavonoids & Flavanols?
Flavonoids are a group of compounds made by plants and have a similar shape and chemical structure to one another. Dietary flavonoids are found in the plants we eat, including many fruits and vegetables.

Flavanols —which represent a specific group of bioactives—are a subgroup of the larger flavonoid group. They are found in a variety of plant-based drinks and foods, including tea, berries, apples and—no surprise here—cocoa.

Of all these sources, cocoa flavanols are unique because they are the most bioavailable, meaning our bodies can absorb them more easily to get the maximum benefits. But just because a product is made with cocoa doesn’t mean it has loads of flavanols—more on that later.

First, let’s talk about what we know about cocoa flavanols and heart health.

Benefits of Flavanols for the Cardiovascular System 
It’s true: research proves cocoa flavanols have a range of health benefits including favorably impacting cardiovascular health. In fact, our scientists have been studying the effects of cocoa flavanols for more than 20 years, and here’s what the research proves: Cocoa flavanols help support a healthy heart by promoting healthy blood flow.

Here’s how: the cardiovascular system is like a superhighway of blood vessels throughout the body. At the core of the system is an oxygenator (the lungs) and a pumping station (the heart). They all work together to circulate nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood past the lungs and out to every cell in the body. The return blood vessels carry waste to the lungs, kidney and liver for disposal. And repeat.  
Part of having healthy circulation relies on keeping those vessels wide open and flexible so blood can easily flow to all the organ systems, head to toe.  Healthy blood flow is important for people of all ages, whether you’re running a marathon, playing with your kids, solving a problem or…doing just about anything with your brain or body! 

One of the ways cocoa flavanols act on blood vessels is by increasing circulation of a compound called nitric oxide (NO). NO causes the thin muscles around and in the blood vessel walls to relax and the blood vessel to dilate – called vasodilation. Proper vasodilation is important for regulating blood pressure and controlling overall blood flow.

To recap: healthy cardiovascular function supports healthy aging, healthy blood pressure, cognitive function and exercise performance. And research shows cocoa flavanols support healthy cardiovascular function. 

Flavanols in Chocolate 
If the flavanols in cocoa give us the health benefits, why can’t we get ours from a big bar of dark chocolate? As we said earlier, there’s the fat, calories and carbs that rule out chocolate as a health food. But perhaps the most important: all cocoa isn’t created equal. 

Ensuring a high concentration of flavanols—essential for getting the full benefits—starts with high quality cocoa beans. Then, gentle handling and processing of the beans, from harvesting through final delivery of the product is critical.

Flavanols are very delicate, and easily destroyed during conventional processing. So contrary to popular belief, most chocolate products don’t contain enough cocoa flavanols to give you health benefits. Nor do most of these products typically indicate or guarantee a specific concentration of cocoa flavanol per serving. 

Until very recently, measuring the amount of cocoa flavanols people were consuming from their food and drinks was a process of complex estimation. But in the first study of its kind, our researchers—collaborating with experts at the University of Reading, the University of California Davis and the University of Cambridge—have identified and validated the first biomarkers that objectively measure flavanol intake at scale. 

If you don’t have a Ph.D. in nutrition or biomedical science, here’s the translation: our researchers have discovered flavanol biomarkers—think of them as searchable chemical hashtags—giving scientists a way to detect the presence of flavanols and precisely measure the amount, in individual diets and across large populations. 

How CocoaVia Measures Up
Thanks to our proprietary Cocoapro® process, which gently extracts cocoa flavanols from high-quality cocoa beans, we’re able to offer the highest concentration available in a supplement today. In fact, ConsumerLab.com named CocoaVia™ supplements the Highest Quality, Top Rated Cocoa Flavanol Product after a rigorous testing process in independent laboratories across a variety of criteria!

We guarantee our capsules and stick packs have 450 mg of high-quality cocoa flavanols per serving that support healthy blood flow for heart health benefits. Whether you prefer the on-the-go convenience of a capsule or the delicious taste of our on-the-go powder packs, make sure you’re getting at least 450mg of cocoa flavanols in your diet every day. 

The takeaway: while it’s unlikely you’ll get the health benefits of cocoa flavanols from your favorite dark chocolate, you do have a convenient, tasty low-fat, low-cal and low-carb option available in CocoaVia™.

Learn more about cocoa flavanols—from health benefits to detailed scientific research—and see the difference for yourself by trying CocoaVia products for 30 days.