When you love something, it’s a bummer to find out that it isn’t really good for you. Even still, we often end up consuming them as ‘guilty pleasures’ just the same. Luckily, one of your favorite treats just keeps getting better for you it seems. Besides the mood-enhancing benefits known from chocolate, this magical ‘food of the gods’ also contains great antioxidants and other properties which can feed your heart and give you cardiovascular strength if you eat little bits all day long.
How does it help?
That’s right, it is now being recommended that you eat your chocolate in little servings throughout the day for heart health as the benefits from the chocolate tend to wear off in a couple of hours. What are these benefits you say? Well, studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate improves blood flow to the heart by 39%, which improves cardiovascular health, for about six hours after eating it. Looks like chocolate is good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The amazing antioxidant in dark chocolate called Epicatechin “keeps cholesterol from gathering in the blood vessels,reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries.“
What about Milk and Sugar?
Watch out for the sugar and milk additives, if there is sugar in your cocoa the benefits drop to 23% and with milk, down to only 12%. Why? The fats in milk actually raise the risk of heart problems because of the saturated fat content, even low-fat milk, used in the study, produced only a 12% increase in blood flow when added to the chocolate.
Sugar, well that’s another story all on it’s own.
For about 8 hours after consuming white sugar the immune system is suppressed. Sugar also increases ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body – both factors for increasing cardiovascular disease.
An increased intake of added sugars, such as regular sugar or corn syrup, can increase triglyceride levels while lowering high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Essentially, it means that the bad cholesterol is higher than the good cholesterol, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease and also obesity. Obesity can lead to other problems such as an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
What kind of chocolate is best?
If you are going to eat chocolate, the best kind for your heart is dark chocolate, straight up, without the sugar and milk. I know, eating chocolate without sugar is a little tricky, but you’re in luck! More and more ‘natural’ chocolate bars are using alternative sweeteners such as agave nectar, raw cane sugar (better than white sugar and does not affect the heart) and coconut nectars. These other types of sweeteners are actually much better for you and in some cases very health-promoting, like in the case of coconut nectar. Even better is to find a raw chocolate bar, or just straight up raw chocolate -meaning the chocolate has not been heated or processed, leaving all the nutritious benefits found naturally, present.
To locate some great raw chocolate with the ‘right’ sweeteners try one of the following companies:
As a simple chocolate treat, make a nice hot cocoa in the morning using some raw honey as a sweetener and for milk, try some almond or coconut milk to cream it up! You will be in chocolate heaven and so will your heart! Who says you can’t have chocolate all day long? Repeat this same beverage again in the afternoon and as an evening dessert. For variety, you can always add some heart-friendly cinnamon or a dash of cayenne pepper to spruce it up! According to studies on cardiovascular health, feeding your heart chocolate all day long is the only way to go!
Written by: Stasia Bliss