ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- The health benefits of chocolate are many. So says registered dietician Betsy Ramirez, M.Ed., R.D. And the reason why are flavanols.
Ramirez says, "There's a compound in chocolate called flavanols which is actually kind of like body armor for your cells. It helps protect against disease."
Ramirez says research has shown flavanols have the greatest benefit on lowering blood pressure and increasing levels of good cholesterol. She says there is also evidence they impact insulin sensitivity, blood flow to the skin, mood, and exercise recovery.
She says, "There was a study, one of my favorite studies, with about 37 thousand men in sweden who were eating milk chocolate over ten years and they saw a reduction in the risk of stroke."
So what's the best chocolate choice? She showed WUSA 9 some of her favorites at Artfully Chocolate in Alexandria. Ramirez says inside the roasted cocao bean is the nib. It is chocolate in its most unprocessed form, and has a high flavanol content.
Ramirez also likes chocolate bars adorned with berries and other healthy, exotic ingredients. But she says you don't need a lot; in fact, moderation is key. She cites research that shows eating a small piece of dark chocolate (6 grams) every day reduces blood pressure. One to two tablespoons of natural cocoa a day may improve cardiovascular health as well.
Ramirez offers 14 Days of Chocolate Recipes on her blog: www.supermarketnutrition.com