It’s Valentines week! You know that heart shaped box of confections sitting on your dresser? You may be doing your heart  a big favor by indulging, if you focus on the dark chocolates!  

Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, not only lowers blood pressure, insulin levels, inflammation, while decreasing  arterial spasms, it serves up potent antioxidants!  Raising good HDL cholesterol, while leaving LDL levels alone, it has been named one of the heart healthy group – along with fish, fruits veggies, almonds, garlic…and happily wine.  Including this group in our diet apparently will tack on over five more wonderful years to our lives, according to the British Medical Journal!

Cocoa contains flavanol, a nitric oxide stimulate, while acting as a vasodilator, lowers blood pressure.  Research studies conducted with two groups of individuals with mild hypertension show that the group eating dark chocolate lowered their systolic reading by an average of five points. The other group ate white chocolate which does not contain cocoa, and had unchanged readings.   

Dark chocolate has been shown to lower insulin levels, both fasting insulin and glucose levels, while improving insulin sensitivity overall.  It looks like the dark yummy stuff actually regulates blood sugar.

It’s clear that inflammation is the culprit in a vast array of condition, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Cocoa flavanols were shown to lower inflammation by reducing 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme, which in turn stops excess production of leukotrienes, the culprit causing inflammation throughout the body.

In addition to it being healthy for our bod, there are also studies to suggest that cocoa’s compounds make us feel great, stimulating the same receptors that POW when we fall in love! No wonder we’re indulging!

Keep it healthy by looking for bars that have at least 70 percent cocoa, and eating no more than a quarter bar a day.  Indulge in a glass of nice red wine and some grapes while you’re at it!

 Bon Appetite!

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