A Heart-Healthy Reason to Eat More Cocoa

Here’s some happy news: Chocolate, specifically cocoa, is good for us!

A new study published in Heart, a peer-reviewed journal for health professionals working in cardiology, reports that chocolate lovers had healthier hearts than people who ate little or no chocolate.

The study, which was conducted by medical researchers in the United Kingdom, tracked almost 21,000 men and women over a 12-year period. The researchers found that people who ate the most chocolate not only experienced fewer heart attacks, but fewer strokes as well.

The difference was significant. In the study, of those who ate the most chocolate, only 12 percent developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the 12 years, compared to 17.4 percent of those who ate no chocolate. And it’s not like the chocolate eaters were consuming pounds of chocolate with every meal. “The group with the greatest benefit generally ate 16 to 100 grams per day,” study author Phyo Myint told NPR’s Allison Aubrey. Compare that to a standard-size Hershey bar, which is only 43 grams. If you like chocolate, that certainly would not be a hardship!

Before you get your hopes up that you can eat as many candy bars as you want, you should know that the sugar, butter, nuts, milk and other high-calorie ingredients in chocolate candy are not contributing to the health benefits. It is the cocoa itself. Evidently, “bioactive plant compounds” found in cocoa beans, called polyphenols, are what may protect against heart disease.

With that in mind, here are 6 ways you can work more cocoa into your diet…both to enjoy the taste and to keep your heart healthy.

1) Cold cocoa drink – We’re all used to making hot cocoa in the winter, but there’s no reason why you can’t drink it in the summer, too. Make it hot, then let it cool down, the same way you do with iced coffee or tea.

2) Milk shakes – Blend together one scoop vanilla ice cream (or a frozen banana), a cup of milk (2% or skim), and two-four tablespoons of cocoa powder, depending on how chocolatey you like your shakes (the milk and ice cream usually are so sweet there’s no need to add sugar). Blend on high; add crushed ice and blend a bit more for a consistency that’s more like a “freezy.”

Image credit: kae71463 via Flickr

Image credit: kae71463 via Flickr

3) Banana bread – You may already make a version of banana bread that uses chocolate chips. This recipe folds a quarter-cup of cocoa powder into the banana-sugar-eggs base. You’re welcome!

4) Avocado cocoa pudding – Take one ripe avocado and blend it together with your favorite sweetener, one-half of a ripe banana, and 1 tablespoons cocoa powder (add more cocoa for a more chocolatey flavor).

5) Cocoa dessert sauce – Cocoa is the starting ingredient when you want to make a rich, delicious sauce to drizzle over fresh fruit, pound cake, or ice cream. Combine 2 tablespoons cocoa, a half cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a small sauce pan. Add maybe one quarter cup of water, just enough so you can stir it. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat after one minute and add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Serve warm.

6) Cocoa chili chicken rub – Cocoa isn’t only for dessert. When I was in Mexico I ate a version of this succulent chicken dish that had been rubbed in cocoa and chili powder, then baked in the oven. The deep flavor of the cocoa was a perfect complement to the heat of the chili.

What’s your favorite way to consume cocoa?

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Image credit: saaleha via Flickr


Sonia M
Sonia M8 months ago

Love cocoa..Good recipes,thanks for sharing

Lesa D
Past Member 8 months ago

hearts & chocolate!!!

Lesa D
Past Member 8 months ago

thank you Diana...

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago


Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

The cocoa chicken sounds interesting. Much like the coffee grounds(unused) rubbed into a steak with some southern seasonings.

Cate S.
Cate S3 years ago

Yum :-)

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Great excuse, thanks!

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

Now, this is what I call a "happy story!" lol!! Thanks for sharing!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

I drink pure cocoa purchased from a coffee store, no additives or preservatives.