The Sweet Truth about Dark Chocolate

By Jan Cullinane
NABBW’s Expert on The New Retirement

What’s been around for 2,000 years, is nicknamed “the food of the gods,” and helps our aging mind and bodies stave off some of the consequences of growing older?  Dark chocolate.

Let’s look at some of the research:

  • Older adults (between 70 and 74) who ate chocolate performed better on cognitive tests that those who do not eat chocolate. (Journal of Nutrition).
  • A small piece of dark chocolate/day (about 30 calories) can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by several points. Participants in this study were 56 – 73. (Journal of the American Medical Association).
  • One or two squares of dark chocolate almost halved the risk of heart attack in some men and women (study participants ranged from 21 – 80). (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine).
  • A square of dark chocolate two or three times a week reduced inflammatory C-reactive protein by 17% (Journal of Nutrition).
  • A compound called epicatechin in dark chocolate can help protect the brain from having a stroke and reduce the damage from a stroke (Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism).

Dark chocolate works because it contains substances that reduce blood clotting, relax blood vessels, increase blood flow, inhibit an enzyme that raises blood pressure, and activates pathways in the brain that protect nerve damage. Best kind of dark chocolate?  One with 70% or more cocoa content.  How much?  A square or two a day.

In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is”!

Jan Cullinane is the co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale).