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Eat This Now to Combat Blood Pressure Crisis!

Good news, chocolate lovers! A study released by Harvard University finds that eating a small square of dark chocolate (containing at least 50 to 70% cocoa) everyday can actually help lower blood pressure for hypertensive individuals.

The esteemed university analyzed 24 chocolate studies involving 1,106 individuals and found that dark chocolate lowered blood pressure in all participants—most notably in those with hypertension (a.k.a. high blood pressure).

Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Eric Ding, co-author of the study, says researchers also found that chocolate increased insulin sensitivity was good for lowering diabetes risk.

This particular study joins the growing amount of research touting the benefits of flavonoids for the heart. Flavonoids are compounds in unsweetened chocolate that cause dilation of the blood vessels (triggering improved blood circulation).

“Dark chocolate as compared to other forms of chocolate contains high amounts of cocoa. Cocoa is very rich in flavonoids that are known to reduce blood pressure and make your heart healthy. Flavonoids also help manage blood sugar better and are diabetic friendly,” says Dr. Manjari Chandra, Clinical Nutritionist at Max Multi Speciality Centre.

“Flavonoids also trigger the expression of skinny genes and as a result, people can also lose weight with the consumption of dark chocolate,” she adds.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standard in the categories of chocolate based on their amount of cacao (a.k.a. cocoa solids): the higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the more heart-healthy it is. As a consumer, to choose the healthiest dark chocolate, simply check its label: chocolate containing 50 to 70% cacao is what you want to buy. These are often called “bittersweet chocolates” or “extra bittersweet chocolates” as they only contain a small amount of sugar for taste.

As a loose guideline, see below:

  • Unsweetened chocolate: 100% cacao
  • Bittersweet (Dark) chocolate: 50 to 99% cacao
  • Semisweet chocolate: 35 to 49% cacao
  • Sweet chocolate: 15 to 34% cacao
  • Milk chocolate: at least 10 % cacao, 12% milk solids and 3.39% milk fat

Furthermore, dark chocolate also appears to affect cholesterol. The Harvard research team found evidence for a significant increase in HDL or “good” cholesterol and a small decrease in LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Moderation is key

Because chocolates are high in calories, you’ll also not want to overindulge. A separate study in Germany recommends getting 30 of your daily intake of calories from dark chocolates for Healthy Habits. Note: The average adult needs at least 2,000 calories to survive.

Additionally, Harvard University recommends choosing chocolate with the highest amount of cocoa and the lowest amount of sugar possible. Dr. Ding recommends choosing brands that are "at least 70% cocoa" for those who want their little chocolate square to pack the highest concentration of flavonoids.

Read more about how you can reduce your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels without statin drugs

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