Since we have been talking about February is Heart Health month; I decided to do some searching for things which will help our cardiovascular system. Much to my surprise I found chocolate contains an antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols are phytochemicals that give plants their distinctive colors and provide protection from UV damage, pests and infections. They can be found in blueberries, green tea, and red wine as well as cacao. Foods that contain polyphenols act as antioxidants; protecting proteins, fats and DNA from oxidative damage (this plays a roll in development of aging and degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease). It has been shown that cacao consumption increased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and appears to protect LDL for oxidation which may cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Polyphenols also seem to protect endothelial function. The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that line the inside of all blood vessels and moderate inflammation. Thus polyphenols promote vascular health.
- Cacao has been found to
- Modestly improve blood pressure
- Improve the production of nitric oxide in the body (improves blood flow) and enhance the immune system, and the brain
- Modulate inflammation in the whole body and yield a lower C-reactive protein level
- May enhance blood flow to the brain (which may improve memory and protect neurons from damage)
- It is the polyphenols that attract all the attention; however cacao is high in other nutrients
- Magnesium supports a healthy heart rhythm and blood pressure and supports strong bones
- Copper is involved in the production of potent internally produced antioxidants
It may not be chocolate’s high polyphenol content, but all these compounds working together that produce chocolate’s health benefits. In a study of women who consumed 41 grams of dark chocolate a day for six weeks, none gained weight. Now 41 grams of dark chocolate might be over-kill. 41 grams is the size of a Hershey’s’ dark chocolate bar. It is estimated that 6.7 grams (0.23 ounces) is the ideal amount (that is about the size of 1 1/2 Hershey’s Kisses).
We chocolate lovers are very lucky; there is a lot of research taking place regarding our beloved food. We must be very careful, we are not talking about your run of the mill processed milk chocolate with added milk and sugar which many times contain little or no cacao. All the health benefits of the chocolate get smaller as the percentage of cacao diminishes. To reap the benefits of this delicious, gourmet food, choose dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (cacao)…70% or higher. I know some of us chocolate lovers cannot see ourselves eating a few squares of dark chocolate each day. There are other ways to get your health fix of cocoa (cacao) daily. Try unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder in a smoothie or protein shake, or add cacao nibs to healthy trail mixes. If you are at home in the kitchen you might even want to try a Mexican mole negro or add unsweetened cocoa powder to red chili. Let your imagination run wild!
When we apply a support stocking or support sock to our legs we are helping the damaged valves and incompetent veins in our legs to function more normally and increase the blood circulation. Why not work from the inside also by imbibing in a little dark chocolate to protect endothelial function (the lining of our veins), increase circulation, support a healthy heart rhythm, blood pressure, strong bones, and produce antioxidants.
Here’s to a healthy body with dark chocolate and support socks,