The New Secret to Heart Health: Chocolate Easter Eggs

One thing’s for sure: We love chocolate -- particularly at Easter time.

In fact, Aussies are the No. 1 consumers of chocolate Easter eggs in the world. According to the Confectionery Manufacturers of Australasia, on average, each of us gobbles 20 eggs. But every person only consumes about 4.4 kilograms of chocolate yearly, compared to the Swiss who each down a whopping 10.3 kg. That means we’re mainly pigging out between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s enough to scare the Easter Bunny!

While your hips certainly won’t be thanking you for overindulging, given chocolate’s high fat content, there is some good news: You just might be doing your heart a favour.
A recent study conducted by the University of Cambridge in the U.K. found that high levels of chocolate consumption were linked with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease. It also discovered that there was a 29 per cent reduction in stroke com¬pared with the low¬est of consumption. The study involved 114,000 people who regularly ate varying amounts of chocolate, including bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts. As the research is in its early days, the exact correlation between chocolate and heart health is still being analysed.

However, these are the benefits scientists have found so far:

• Lower blood pressure. Flavonoids, found in cocoa and most concentrated in dark chocolate, are thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticlotting effects, which may relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

• Lower risk of diabetes. Flavonoids may also improve insulin sensitivity. This can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and reduce harmful LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent.

• Happiness boost. Chocolate can improve your mood through the stimulation of pleasurable endorphins in the brain. This reduces your stress levels.

Chocolate is also said to be good for your teeth. Chocolate contains tannins, a compound that helps prevent cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to your gums and teeth. When tannins are mixed with sugar, they can reduce plaque bacteria that can result in gum and dental disease.

But be warned: You shouldn’t use this recent study as an excuse to chow down on a truckload of Easter eggs. Given chocolate’s high levels of fat and sugar, it’s important to not overdo it. If you do, you may put yourself at risk of cardiovascular disease, which’ll cancel out the good benefits. Researchers agree that it’s fine to enjoy chocolate -- preferably the dark variety -- as long as it’s in moderation. So enjoy, but go easy on those eggs!

By Fleur Michell for Oral Care and Health Daily

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