Before you grab a piece of chocolate or slice of chocolate cake, it’s important to understand that not all forms of chocolate are created equal. Some forms of chocolate are heart-healthy. Cocoa and dark chocolate are the best choices since they contain the highest concentration of flavonoids and antioxidants. Flavonoids help protect the body by shielding it from environmental toxins and help repair damage. When we consume foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research indicates that flavanols have other positive influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and lowering cholesterol. Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing and from environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, damage from free radicals occurs and leads to increases in LDL (bad)-cholesterol oxidation (oxidized LDL-cholesterol hurts the arteries) and plaque formation on the walls of the arteries. So on Valentine’s Day, and every other day for that matter, choose the heart-healthy treat and opt for cocoa or dark chocolate, and (as always) remember moderation! Results may vary by individual, consult your doctor today and see if this is right for you!