Eating healthy should be as tasty as it is effective. What could be better than living a long time, in excellent health, loving every bite of food along the way?

In our quest for excellent health, antioxidants are one of the most commonly overlooked – and most tasty – elements of a truly healthy diet. Antioxidants are powerful drugs that repair aging cells, prevent disease, and slow the aging process. They come in many different forms and can be found throughout the plant kingdom, most notably in spices, fruits, vegetables, but also in tea, wine and chocolate.

Few of us need an extra incentive to have more wine or chocolate, yet researchers have given us a great reason to have that extra chocolate dessert. In the July edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers find that men who had the highest amounts of an antioxidant found in chocolate had a 38% reduction in their risk of cardiovascular disease. In men with known heart disease, the reduction in risk was even greater at 46%. This means that, all else being equal, having adequate chocolate lowers your risk of death from heart disease by 38-46%.

Hold the apple, eat more chocolate

It was already well-known that the antioxidants in chocolate had powerful effects, including increased blood flow to the heart and improving insulin sensitivity, but this was one of the first times that chocolate was actually shown to prevent death from heart disease. The antioxidant in chocolate that was studied is called epicatechin and is found in the highest concentrations in green and black tea, apples, and chocolate.

To get the maximum benefit achieved in the trial, you would need to get the daily equivalent of the following:

  • 2-3 apples
  • 6 cups of black tea
  • Two tablespoons of cocoa or about 2-3 ounces of dark chocolate

For example, having an apple a day and one ounce of dark chocolate would do the trick. The surprising thing is how few people get this amount of epicatechin-containing food each day. In fact, in the study discussed above only 1/3 of the people studied got adequate amounts of the high-epicatechin foods.

If you’re feeling inspired, try this recipe for my awesome chocolate pudding. One half serving would give you your day’s worth of epicatechin.

2-Minute Chocolate Pudding

  • 2 avocados
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. honey, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in food processor or mixer. Blend until smooth. Chill and serve.