Dark Chocolate Can Be Part of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 11/17/2014

Dark Chocolate Can Be Part of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Many of you may recall that I’ve long advocated the benefits of dark chocolate, eaten in moderation of course. It can absolutely be part of a heart-healthy diet. Now, two new studies have cited even more chocolate-specific health perks for your heart.

The Benefits of Dark Chocolate: It Helps to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Eating dark chocolate (which is 65% polyphenol-rich cocoa) helps to lower your blood pressure naturally. This June study out of Texas Woman’s University in Houston compared 14,310 adults living in Jordan, placing them in one of three categories: those with mild dark chocolate intake (1-2 bars per week), moderate intake (3-4 bars per week), and high intake (more than 4 bars per week).

They didn’t specify the size or type of the bars eaten, but all blood pressure levels were measured by well-trained pharmaceutical students. What they found is that those participants who ate the highest amounts of dark chocolate had a significant decrease in blood pressure levels, regardless of their age or family history of hypertension. So, dark chocolate helped to lower blood pressure naturally. The other surprise was they reported no increase in heart rate with chocolate consumption, once again confirming the benefits of dark chocolate for heart health.

Plus, Dark Chocolate Lowers the Risk of Cardiometabolic Disorders

British researchers in Paris performed a meta-analysis of seven previous studies, releasing their findings in August in the British Medical Journal. What they found is that higher dark chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders—which is a combination of risk factors that can lead to both heart disease and diabetes. So, once again there's proof that the benefits of dark chocolate can be a vital part of a heart-healthy diet.

The studies they reviewed were not limited to dark chocolate intake, but chocolate in any form: chocolate drinks, snacks, biscuits, candy and nutritional supplements whether milk, white, dark, or semisweet. What they found is that in five of the seven studies, higher chocolate consumption was linked with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in strokes.

What’s the Bottom Line for You?

While over-consumption of anything is never smart medicine in my book, moderate chocolate intake may be in order (but not after dinner for those of you who can’t sleep after caffeine). My personal chocolate stash includes resveratrol chocolate bars and organic dark chocolate bars. I allow myself to have a small piece every few days so I, too, can enjoy the benefits of chocolate.

But, there is one caution. Caffeine in chocolate can aggravate cardiac arrhythmias such as PAC’s, PVC’s, and atrial fibrillation, so I discourage chocolate for those folks bothered by these disorders or who are diabetic.

Now it’s your turn: Have you added dark chocolate to your heart-healthy diet?

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