Charlotte’s Blog

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Not Just Dark Chocolate…

If you’re like me, you may have had moments when you’ve looked at the latest clinical information on the health benefits of dark chocolate, and your first response is, “But I don’t like dark chocolate.”  What’s a milk chocolate lover to do when dark chocolate gets all the good press, and it seems the only benefit you get from milk chocolate is that it tastes…well…really great!  Good news, milk chocolate lovers, new research is pointing to overall health benefits for milk chocolate that include it’s ability to fend off dementia and more.

Disclaimer here, when we extend the benefits to milk chocolate, it’s about “minimally-processed milk and powdered varieties” of chocolate.  So, read the labels, but be prepared for five health benefits:

  1. As with dark chocolate, our milk chocolate intake is part of an overall healthy diet that can reduce the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that adults who even eat a bit less than an ounce of chocolate daily are less likely than those eating no chocolate to develop heart disease.  Researchers haven’t pinpointed what the mechanism of action is, but the outcome is real.
  2. The antioxidants in chocolate help to defend your blood vessels against plaque buildup by reducing low density lipids – the bad cholesterol. Dark chocolate has an advantage with its greater concentration of stearic and oleic acids, but the less-processed milk chocolate also confers an advantage.
  3. Especially if you have high blood pressure or a family history of hypertension, chocolate helps blood vessels to dilate without damaging the vessels, because of the flavonoids all chocolates possess. Improved blood flow means lower blood pressure.
  4. Research from Harvard Medical School has found that this blood flow improvement is important to the areas of the brain associated with higher cognition. In other words, chocolate improves mental acuity and memory, but …the good news…you need to consume chocolate daily to optimize the effects.
  5. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen found that people consuming chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, had reduced cravings for non-healthy salty or sweet or fatty foods. Who would have thought that chocolate helps promote a healthy diet overall.

Five benefits (and yes, dark chocolate does have an edge over milk chocolate) are a pretty good return on your dietary investment.  And you can’t overindulge and expect positive results, but a bit of chocolate-induced happiness has more benefits than just a happy palate.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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