Study Says Chocolate and Cheese are Good for Heart Health But Has Caveats

We always want to believe the studies that say exactly what we want to hear. That’s why new research that says chocolate and cheese are heart-healthy foods gives us so much hope. While dairy is known to have benefits and flavanols from chocolate have perks, is the headline too good to be true?

We’ll start right off the bat by saying that we don’t think any foods should be completely off-limits. If you like something, you should enjoy it as part of a healthy diet in moderation. Trying to tell yourself that there is no room in your diet for your favorites is a recipe for “falling off the wagon” and making unhealthy choices, eating far too much of something that should be enjoyed as a treat.

Full fat fermented dairy, like cheese, is linked to better heart health. However, it can be very high in calories as well as fat. The new study found that eating small amounts of it daily could aid heart health. But the headline is slightly misleading. A diet with cheese as a base most likely isn’t a healthy choice. In fact, they found that the healthy limit of cheese was a third of a cup of shredded or two and a half slices.

It was the same for chocolate. The flavanols, antioxidants and nutrients in chocolate may benefit the heart. However, they are found most readily in dark chocolate, and you have to pay close attention to portion size. The researchers said eating 10 grams of chocolate a day may boost health. After that, the sugar and calories could do more harm than good. A standard serving of chocolate, according to the FDA, is 30 grams. So, yes, chocolate may aid the heart. But, it’s a third of the standard portion size.

In addition to controlling for portion sizes, the scientists were looking at people following a primarily vegan diet. That could throw off the results for those of us who eat meat and plenty of other animal products.

The articles on the study make it sound like a heart-healthy diet should feature chocolate and cheese predominantly. They fail to point out the study’s limitations or the reality that it doesn’t mean you should be adding a bar of Hershey’s into your daily diet. We wish it did! What we take away from this is the fact that so many foods can play a role in health. Chocolate and full fat dairy are so often maligned as being bad for you without any nuance. This shows that a square of chocolate or a couple of slices of cheese has benefits, but you should still enjoy them as treats rather than major food groups.  

Banner image: Anastasia Belousova via Pexels

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