Why Dark Chocolate is a Heart Healthy Food
No matter how old you are right now, your heart has been in overdrive since before you were born. It’s been pumping away and keeping your body supplied with the blood, oxygen, and nutrients you require to live.
If it stops, you stop.
Heart disease claims more lives of men and women than any other cause of death on the planet. Every minute of every day, someone dies from heart attack or stroke. Year after year, the deaths add up and humans still don’t treat their hearts with the reverence (and respect) it deserves.
Too many opt for junk food, fast food, and substances masquerading as food in pursuit of the quick comfort food high they deliver.
Overlooking the benefits of heart healthy foods, water, and even sleep to get that momentary feel-good of potato chips, cheap candy bars, soda, or specialty coffee packed with sugar.
You run, run, run from one thing to the next – rarely thinking about the consequences (if at all) until there’s a medical emergency that doesn’t give you any choice.
Sicker, fatter, and aging faster than ever.
Mankind as a whole is paying for our poor choices and will continue to pay as decades of “cheap and easy” catch up to generations raised on food that’s created in labs and filled with chemicals. Only the damage will get worse.
The results show on our skin, on our waistlines, in our brains, and in our hearts.
Eating Heart Healthy Foods without Misery
Eating right isn’t easy. No one understands better than me how good wine, croissants, and ice cream tastes. As a lifetime addict of sugar and caffeine, I get it.
There comes a point where you must weigh your options. For me, it was a life-threatening blood clot. For you, perhaps being diagnosed with diabetes or ending up in the hospital for a heart event. Maybe vanity drives you because the standard diet of developed nations certainly destroys the figure and takes a toll on skin health.
I can (and have many times) provide you with a list of food swaps and cheats to fool your taste buds and your brain into thinking you’re eating crappy food from your local fast food joint.
What I really want to focus on is cacao – otherwise known as dark chocolate. The benefits are incredible for this heart healthy food (treat) that has less sugar than milk or white chocolate.
5 Incredible Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- Increase iron levels without supplements. Suffering from low iron (such as anemia) can result in fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, coldness in the feet and hands, headaches, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat. Women who go through labor or experience heavy menstrual flow every month are particularly at risk for low iron.
Iron supplements aren’t always effective because they can cause constipation, upset stomach, and bloating. Getting the iron you need from food is best (and easiest for your body to absorb). One ounce of dark chocolate provides more than 50% of your recommended daily allowance.
- Boost brain cognition with a sweet treat. Drinking cocoa or having a square of dark chocolate can increase the blood flow in your brain for a couple of hours without the sugar content of many other comfort foods. In their study of brain health in the elderly, Oxford University researchers found that participants who regularly consumed dark chocolate scored higher on cognition tests.
Dark chocolate is packed with all kinds of stuff your brain loves such as vitamin E, which has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. Varieties that contain 70% cacao or higher has vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants without all the excess fat and sugar.
- Improve overall mood. A Finland study discovered that expectant mothers who made dark chocolate part of their pregnancy diet experienced less stress with new motherhood and had happier babies.
The best part about cacao is that it makes you feel amazing because it releases “feel good” hormones (serotonin and dopamine, for example) in your body that hit the comfort food marker every time.
- Helps control body weight. When you’re looking for a treat to satisfy those sugar, salt, or fatty food cravings, you can’t go wrong with dark chocolate. It makes you feel “fuller” than other snacks or treats because it takes your body longer to digest. That means the “treat” effect lasts longer and goes further.
It might feel like you’re cheating…but you’re not. It’s also a natural caffeine stimulant that’s a perfect energy bump without the guilt when eaten in moderation.
- A heart-healthy food all the way. Swedish scientists found that participants who consumed cacao a couple of times a week lowered their risk of heart disease by one-third. It’s packed with powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanidin, catechins, and resveratrol that scavenge free radicals and lower inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease.
Dark chocolate is available year-round and gives you good stuff like zinc, magnesium, and iron that are going to help keep your immune system (and your awesome heart) strong. Researchers with the University of L’Aquila in Italy determined that subjects who consumed one bar of dark chocolate daily saw a 50% drop in insulin resistance! The flavonoids boost your body’s nitric oxide production to balance sugar levels. Since diabetes risk and heart disease risk are linked, this is good news for those who suffer from one or the other.
Controlling weight, improving mood, getting clean energy, and coupling a delicious treat with valuable nutrition all benefit your heart for the long haul. Taking care of your heart doesn’t have to be miserable…but it does have to be a priority. By making small changes – such as including dark chocolate in your diet – you can keep this hard-working organ pumping for decades to come.