Who doesn't love to indulge in chocolate? After years of being told that chocolate is bad for you new studies are now showing that chocolate, specifically dark chocolate is good for you and can actually help you lower your blood pressure and prevent heart disease. This is good news for you since the #1 killer of Americans is vascular disease.
In a study published by the International Journal of Hypertension earlier this year, found that one week of dark chocolate can significantly improve endothelial function and reduce blood pressure. According to the research, “a reduction of 3mmHg in systolic BP can reduce relative risk of death from stroke by 8%, from cardiovascular disease in general by 5%, and overall all-cause mortality by 4%.” But what is it in dark chocolate that makes it actually good for you?
In an interview with Dr. Steven Lamm a practicing internist, faculty member at New York University School of Medicine, Director of Men's Health for NYU Medical Center and author of No Guts, No Glory, chocolate contains flavanoids which are known for their positive effect on blood vessel flow and lessen the restriction of blood vessels.
“This study shows that a daily diet that includes flavanol-rich cocoa can improve cardiovascular health and even reduce the risk of stroke,” says Steven Lamm, M.D., “Incorporating dark chocolate into the daily regimen is an indulgence that may help us live better and longer.”
By incorporating an ounce (which is equivalent to three small pieces) of dark chocolate daily is enough to make a difference. Not just any dark chocolate though. A lot of dark chocolate on the market is high in sugar and therefore won't be beneficial. Neither will milk chocolate since it only contains anywhere from 7% to 35% cocoa or white chocolate that doesn't contain any cocoa at all. What you need to look for is a dark chocolate that states it has a content of 70% or more but no more than 90% because at that point the dark chocolate is no longer palatable and quite bitter. Another alternative if you don;t like the taste of dark chocolate is to drink a cup of hot chocolate made with unsweetened cocoa powder.
If you think this is too good to be true (chocolate being healthy that is) then just take a look at the Kuna Indians who live on the islands off of Panama. The tribe consumes on average five cups of flavanoid rich cocoa a day making cardiovascular disease a rarity amongst them.
Be aware though that dark chocolate alone is not going to 'cure' you of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It can help you decrease your blood pressure and improve vascular function but a healthy diet with moderate exercise along with your daily intake of dark chocolate is your best bet.
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