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Chocolate is often craved, but not always lauded as ‘healthy’ chocolate. In a surprising (though certainly not unwelcome) turn of events, chocolate may now be considered a health food. Research shows that consuming higher amounts of chocolate is linked to lower risk of heart disease.

The British Medical Journal published a study showing that eating chocolate can cause risk of cardiovascular disease to drop by up to one third. The study compiled data from several different reports and past experiments on chocolate and its effect on a person’s health. However, in all of these past reports, it was still unclear how chocolate was able to affect someone’s health in such a way.

For example, past reports showed that eating chocolate reduces blood pressure. There are several studies that show a link between eating chocolate and experiencing improved insulin sensitivity as well. In a British study of over 20,000 people, people who ate larger amounts of chocolate had about a nine percent risk of stroke, while those who did not were at a 13 percent risk.

Five studies in total have reported health benefits of chocolate in regards to the cardiovascular system. In the latest report, they evaluated the data and found that the “highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels.”

The authors can all agree that the benefits of chocolate are obvious. However, the authors also agree that they are cautious in prescribing chocolate in any fashion. Commercial chocolate is too readily available, and at almost 500 calories per 100 grams, this treat can lead to weight gain. Additionally, there has been no real observance of the difference between eating milk chocolate or dark chocolate, specifically whether or not one has more effect than the other.

What they can say with certainty is that chocolate does contain antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which have helpful anti-inflammatory properties. Of course, chocolate also contains sugar and often dairy and other added ingredients. The real benefit lies in the cocoa, which is the main ingredient in commercial chocolate. Cocoa is a plant-derived food, and it is well known that consuming a plant-based diet is beneficial to health in all aspects.

As it stands, heart disease accounts for approximately 610,000 deaths in the United States each year. This makes up nearly one quarter of all deaths, making heart disease the leading killer in the U.S. Prevention is of utmost importance, as a traditional American diet is often loaded with unhealthy fats and unnecessarily large portions. It is important to consume a balanced diet overall, with habitual consumption of vegetables, fruits and healthy fats — and a little bit of cocoa for dessert.

Stay tuned for Dr. Gundry’s own line of healthy chocolate, ChocolateMD, with heart-boosting polyphenols and nutrients, such as resveratrol and Co-Q10!

For more foods that are good for you, keep reading:

Berberine: Why You Need This Powerful Plant Compound

Turmeric: One of World’s Most Powerful Health-Boosting Herbs