A review on the health properties of chocolate, conveniently published in the lead up to Valentine's Day, confirms the evidence that chocolate is good for your heart.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis reviewed a number of recent studies on chocolate - particularly dark chocolate - and its health benefits. They found that flavan-3-ols, the main flavonoids found in cocoa, are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reporting in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association dietitian Althea Zanecosky explained: "Cocoa contains the same nutrients found in other plant foods, including minerals and specific antioxidants that help ward off diseases such as heart disease. In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil, makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate and has been shown to be beneficial for heart health."
She added that researchers have found that Europeans living in the 17th century praised chocolate for its healing powers. They believed that chocolate 'comforted the liver, aided in digestion and made one happy and strong.'
"Chocolate was also used for stimulating the kidneys and treating anaemia, tuberculosis, fever and gout," said Zanecosky. "It was also viewed as a way to strengthen the heart and relieve heart pain."
Nutrition experts do however advise consuming chocolate in moderate amounts and incorporating a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods including fruits and vegetables, teas and red wines.