Can dark chocolate stop a heart attack? Well, not one that’s already happening. In fact there’s some evidence that the caffeine in dark chocolate could actually trigger a heart attack, especially in those who aren’t used to it.
Long term however, chocolate does seem a very heart-healthy choice. The flavanols in chocolate help the heart in three ways: by lowering blood pressure, boosting blood flow to the heart and brain and by making blood cells less “sticky.”
Whatever the nuts and bolts the chocolate heart health link is real. A study of 20,000 people found those who ate dark chocolate showed less “cardiac events” in those with a yen for the cacao-based candy.
Other Chocolate Heart Health Facts
Did we say chocolate boosts heart health in three ways? We lied. There’s a fourth way. Studies have shown dark chocolate lowers “bad” cholesterol as well. That’s thanks to polyphenols — naturally occurring antioxidants that protect cells, fight cancer, slow aging and generally act like a suit of armor around our health.
Apart from draining the bad cholesterol swamp, chocolate also raises good cholesterol or HDL. It’s a tasty one-two punch to keep our blood stream fats in order.
If chocolate is so good for you, why does NFL legend Tom Brady avoid it like an NFL commissioner? See our Tom Brady diet plan guide here to find out.
The Right Kind of Chocolate
Eating just any chocolate won’t do the trick. Most chocolate gets polluted by too much sugar and over-processing. The sugar and other additives in most chocolate candy causes more trouble than it’s worth. Kind of like eating a green salad for your health and then crushing it with a can of vanilla frosting.
The key is to eat only dark chocolate with very little sugar. That way the benefits come through without the risks. Aside from helping heart health, dark chocolate hammers these other perks as well:
- Immune Help: Chocolate is packed with antioxidants that act like a police force for nasty cells called free radicals that wander around the body looking for something to destroy. Free radicals contribute to heart disease, so here’s another chocolate heart booster. Warning: the milk in milk chocolate may block the antioxidants from helping us. Score another one for dark chocolate.
- Cancer Block: The American Cancer Institute points out the flavanols in chocolate may prevent cancer cells from forming. The evidence is still “emerging,” but in the meantime, there’s no reason not to take one for the team and guinea-pig yourself a bit.
- Brain Boost: Studies show dark chocolate can improve brain function, especially in older people. This is down to chocolate’s flavanols again, with more chocolate leaning to a bigger cognitive boost. The Journal of Nutrition says more research is needed. Would anyone like to volunteer?
- Blood Sugar Regulation: One study found dark chocolate actually lowers blood sugar. That’s contrary to what we’d think, although again it doesn’t apply to chocolate cake or candy bars.
- The Caffeine Weight Loss Effect: Need more convincing? The caffeine in chocolate can give a solid kick to the metabolism. That means more calories burned, which can mean weight-loss too. Less fat carried around on the chassis also means, you guessed it, lower risk of heart disease. Chocolate, anyone?