In the US, we consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year. That's more than 11 pounds per person. A good portion of that intake occurs over Christmas.
Believe it or not, this can be a really good thing for our blood vessels. Turns out when we eat chocolate, blood vessel function improves. A study of 20 patients with significant blockages in their leg arteries, found that 2 hours after eating chocolate, they could walk an additional dozen yards before experiencing leg pain. And chocolate has been shown not to just improve circulation in the legs. It's also been shown to improve circulation in the heart and in the brain.
But there’s an important caveat here: in this and other studies, the positive effect was seen ONLY after eating DARK chocolate. When the experiment was repeated with milk chocolate, these same individuals had no improvement in walking distance.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavonols which are antioxidant-type compounds that appear to be linked to these beneficial blood vessel effects. Flavonols also give chocolate its bitter flavor. The higher the cacao content, the more bitter the chocolate and the higher the flavonol content. So a good way to judge flavonol content is by looking at what percent cacao the chocolate contains. Anything over 70% is preferred.
Processing cocoa (including Dutch processing) and/or adding milk to chocolate destroys the flavonols, so avoid the milk and chocolate combination, and use only unprocessed cocoa powders in cooking/baking.
Have you ever wondered why Step One Foods uses 72% cacao dark chocolate exclusively? And why there are no milk compounds in any of our chocolate-containing foods? It’s because we base all our formulations on published research so that what you’re eating is as beneficial to your heart and your blood vessels as possible.
So if you want to indulge your sweet tooth this holiday season, enjoy our Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar or our Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cluster. No guilt required.