We’ve been told to reach for a piece of dark chocolate instead of other candy in order to satisfy our sweet tooth, which is advice that stems from research linking the regular consumption of dark chocolate to a reduced risk of heart disease. However, much of the chocolate you’ll find in stores is loaded with sugar and not-so-good-for-you ingredients that make end up packing on the pounds instead of boosting your health.
The science behind dark chocolate comes from the antioxidant power of the cocoa bean. It contains an abundance of plant nutrients called flavanols that help our body resist damage from free radicals, and studies also show it can have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart and brain.
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“There is a ton of research on cocoa flavanols…I wouldn’t even know where to start!” says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. “There is a plethora of evidence in favor of cocoa flavanols promoting health. The pro-circulatory effects caused by stimulation of nitric oxide helps promote blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients efficiently throughout the body. This also benefits the skin, as dermal circulation is improved and more efficient. The only pushback on cocoa is sustainability, hence why many of the big chocolate makers work globally to build sustainability programs.”
So is there a way to reap the benefits without actually eating the chocolate (we know this takes away the best part)? Experts seem to think so. Researchers are currently looking for women (ages 65+) and men (ages 60+) to participate in a four-year trial to test whether or not the effects of cocoa extract can minimize risk of heart attack, stroke, cognitive decline and other conditions. (Click here to get involved.) Half of the study’s participants will be given capsules full of the extract (the dosage compares to the amount of the extract you’d get if you ate 1,000 calories of dark chocolate), and the other half will take a placebo pill.
It the research proves this concept is successful, we could be seeing chocolate pills on store shelves at some point in the not-so-distant future, and hopefully a corresponding decrease in heart-related disorders that presently affect thousands of men and women every day.
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