If you were planning on trying to give up chocolate this year, we have good news: you don’t have to, and you can still stay true to your New Year’s health resolutions.
Dark chocolate has been linked to a number of health benefits, but only recently has it been convincingly linked to lower blood pressure. Recent studies show evidence that the cocoa flavanols can drop blood pressure by up to six points and do so with more reliability than leading blood pressure medications. This is big news, considering heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S., and high blood pressure increases your risk for not just heart disease, but also for stroke and dementia.
Before you get your hopes too high, eating a lot of dark chocolate isn’t quite the same as taking a cocoa flavanol supplement, since the added sugars in processed cocoa can counteract its heart-healthy benefits. With that said, large-scale observational studies have found a link between regular chocolate-eaters and lower cardiovascular risk. The key to good health might just be in eating premium dark chocolate in small amounts regularly.
Beyond physical health, there are other good reasons to keep chocolate on hand. Chocolate is a natural mood-booster, partly due to its flavonols again, and partly due to the sense of reward it gives us. Eating a bit of chocolate can mean the difference between us indulging our bad mood in more harmful ways and us pushing through to a more positive outcome. Additionally, chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine (a plant-based compound also found in tea), which can give you an energy boost without the jittery effects and inevitable crash you can get from coffee. Just a bite of dark chocolate between tasks can keep you energized and alert!