Recent research carried out in Sweden has been widely reported in the media because it claims that chocolate can reduce the risk of heart failure in elderly and middle-aged women. The researchers asked thousands of people to complete questionnaires listing which foods they commonly eat and found that older women who eat one to two portions of chocolate once or twice a week had a lower incidence of heart failure than those who ate chocolate more or less frequently. The portion size was not stated, but was estimated by the researchers to be 19-30g of chocolate that contains 30% cocoa solids.
The researchers acknowledge that the health benefits of chocolate are likely to be gained from the flavonoids that it contains. Flavonoids are compounds that are synthesised by plants and they are therefore prevalent in fruits, vegetables and legumes. Research has shown that red wine and tea are also high in flavonoids but, like chocolate, these substances can be harmful to health and so they should be limited in the diet.
Common food sources of flavonoids include red, blue and purple berries, red and purple grapes, apples, citrus fruits, onions, broccoli, apples, parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers, soybeans and legumes. Research has shown that flavonoids may act as antioxidants. They may also reduce inflammation, cut cancer risks and decrease neurodegeneration in addition to cutting cardiovascular disease.
No adverse effects have been associated with high dietary intakes of flavonoids from plant-based foods, wheres side-effects have been observed from drinking tea, red wine and chocolate due to the caffeine, alcohol, saturated fat and sugar in these products. This research demonstrates that benefits are only seen with small intakes of chocolate – a small bar once or twice a week. Intakes above this are likely to reduce health due to the fat and sugar content of chocolate. A small bar each week may be a great way to gain flavonoids whilst having a treat, but far greater health benefits can be gained from eating a diet rich in a variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes.
For more information about flavonoid rich diets, why not call Emma at Smart Nutrition or make an appointment today?