It seems there’s been a lot of news circulating my favorite food lately: Chocolate. And this time, research is pointing to one more benefit of this delectable dessert.
A new study from the UK-based research group, Cochrane Collaboration, suggests that chocolate consumption truly is good for your heart. And no, we’re not making this stuff up.
As reported by NPR, a collection of 20 studies analyzed the compounds in cocoa known as flavanols and found they may help reduce blood pressure. This is because flavanols have been found to help the formation of nitric oxide in the body – an effect of relaxed blood vessel walls.
The studies required participants to consume either dark chocolate or cocoa powder every day ranging in portion size from 3 -100 grams. For reference, a 1.5 ounce Hershey’s bar weighs 43 grams, and a single Hershey’s kiss weighs 4.5 grams.
Results showed participants saw small reductions in blood pressure: 2-3 mm Hg on average (mm meaning millimeters of mercury).
Karin Ried of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine and the University of Adelaide in Australia was pleased with the findings, but doesn’t believe this means chocolate is the new go-to treatment for high blood pressure. Instead, she contends that flavanols may be a good component to come alongside other treatment options in hopes of controlling and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to the flavanols in cocoa and exercise, other practices such as meditation and mindfulness can have similar effects in lowering blood pressure. Randall Zusman of Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the researchers behind this field of thought, and wasn’t surprised that the findings confirmed the positive effects of chocolate on blood pressure.
In fact, the findings were music of Zusman’s ears as he often finds it difficult to strip salt and carbs from his patient’s diets when trying to treat their high blood pressure. “I can sometimes redeem myself by suggesting a little chocolate,” he said, adding that consumption should be in modest amounts and preferably at least 70 percent cocoa.
If you’re looking for new, healthy ways to incorporate chocolate into your diet, consider these dark chocolate brownies which contain an entire 1/2 cup of cocoa powder in one batch. Or, if you’re looking for a guilt-free option, consider Walden Farms chocolate dip, which is 100 percent calorie free. And in the future, be sure to look for chocolate made with fruit juice that contains less than half the fat of regular chocolate bars. It seems the news surrounding chocolate keeps getting sweeter and sweeter, and that’s OK with us.