Dark Chocolate, Antioxidants, and Strengthening your Heart Health
I hate eating sweets. The reason I hate eating sweets is because I love eating them. They are my downfall. One of my co-workers isn't making it any easier with his "Ice Cream Tuesdays" which have also turned into "Ice Cream Thursdays." Let's go ahead and throw in a "Donut Wednesday" and "Cake Friday" while we're at it. I have no willpower! Now, as I look over at my husband, I notice he has 4, no 5 chocolate chip cookies in his lap. There’s too much temptation; thanks, honey! At least there is a healthy alternative when it comes to chocolate... and it happens to be my favorite - dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate has long been recognized for its antioxidant benefits, but a new study conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center has uncovered an important link to its vascular health benefits. The study reported that dark chocolate (Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate) has a positive impact on blood pressure and blood vessel function. The rich dark chocolate is comprised of 60 percent cacao.
Cacao or the cocoa plant is a small evergreen tree. Its seeds are used to make cocoa and chocolate. Studies have shown heart benefits surrounding cacao, including increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, improved bad cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. Doctors say these benefits are the result of the cocoa’s antioxidant chemicals known as flavonoids, which seem to prevent both cell and damage and inflammation.
The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center study is the largest of its kind to research the short-term benefits of solid dark chocolate and cocoa containing beverages on blood pressure and endothelial function (blood vessel function). The results, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate (75g) as well as Hershey’s Natural Cocoa (22g) lowered blood pressure and improved endothelial function in 45 participants two hours after consumption.
In addition, the Hershey Company announced that Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate is the first chocolate bar to earn the respected Best Life seal of approval. Designed by Bob Greene, respected exercise physiologist and famed trainer, the Best Life seal appears on select grocery products and is intended to help consumers make healthier food and lifestyle decisions.
I try to keep my sweet eating in moderation, even with dark chocolate. I even turn down the ice cream on Thursdays and a friend and I split an ice cream sandwich on Tuesdays. Hopefully that will keep the calorie count to a minimum (I wonder if anyone makes extra dark chocolate ice cream...).