Chocolate has over 300 naturally occurring chemicals within it. The most infamous chemicals include caffeine, sugar, and cocoa. However, one of the lesser-known chemicals found in chocolate are referred to as flavonoids. Flavonoids are the same chemicals found in red wine, which has also been found to lower LDL cholesterol (low density lipoproteins, “bad” cholesterol) levels as well as exert a protective effect against coronary heart disease. In addition to this, one-third of the fat content found in chocolate is in the form of stearic acid. Although it is a saturated fat, stearic acid exerts a neutral effect on cholesterol levels; that is, while it does not appear to raise cholesterol levels in some studies, it does not appear to lower them either.
Does it matter which type of chocolate you consume? It might. Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of flavonoids than other chocolates and thus may be more likely to exert more of a protective effect against heart disease. Additionally, other forms of chocolate may contain undesirable ingredients that may raise cholesterol levels, such as whole milk and cream fillings.
Despite the benefits that chocolate may have, it shouldn’t be an excuse to consume it at every meal! Chocolate should be consumed only in moderation, preferably in accompaniment with a healthy diet. It should also not be used to replace the other healthy sources of flavonoids in your diet, such as grapes and blueberries.