The next time you have the urge to reach for that sinful bar of chocolate; don’t stop yourself, especially if it’s dark chocolate you crave. There have been studies and theories about dark chocolate being good stress buster as well giving you an endorphin high for the last decade or so because of it having a high polyphenol content, but the real secret of dark chocolate being healthy, lies in its vascular benefits.
The Vascular Benefits of Dark Chocolate
The very same polyphenols that reduce stress and inflammation in the body also reduce oxidative stress on the arteries since they are anti-oxidants. They also help the body produce more of nitric oxide, which has a dilatory effect on arteries. Nitric oxide basically acts on the receptors located in the walls of the arteries, prompting them to widen.
A widened artery means a better blood flow, which in turn equates to a better vascular and circulatory system of the body. And having a better blood flow is helpful for everyone, be it at any age – for when the blood flow opens up, the blood pressure goes down to optimum levels.
Do I Need Vascular Benefits?
Everybody benefits from a better vascular system. The cells of the body need a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients, and also need their wastes removed in an effective and timely manner. The heart, blood vessels and blood work together to provide this very essential service to the body. The blood vessels take in oxygenated blood from the lungs and distribute it to all the cells of the body, and then, in turn, collect the carbon dioxide from the cells and give it to the lungs for exhalation.
Similarly, the blood gathers nutrients from the small intestine and yet again delivers it to all cells, collecting waste and taking it to the larger intestine and the kidneys to then be passed out of the body as feces and urine.
If the vascular system develops any problems, such as a poor blood flow due to narrowing of arteries – this essential service gets disrupted leading to minor problems such as cramps, restless legs syndrome, pains and aches all over the body, numbness and fatigue. If left untreated, poor circulation can ultimately result in PAD, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney and organ failure and much more.
Can Dark Chocolate Really Help in Better Circulation?
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has shown that eating dark chocolate can help people suffering from PAD (peripheral artery disease, affecting about 20% of adults over 70 all over the world). People with PAD have a constricted blood flow to the limbs which leads to walking problems, cramping and numbness in the extremities and even poor motor control. In a controlled study of 20 participants suffering from PAD – half were given 40gms of dark chocolate with 85% cocoa while the others were given chocolate with only 20% cocoa content. All the participants were made to walk on their own on treadmills to measure the effect and surprisingly; the dark chocolate group walked an average 11% more than the others – showing that dark chocolate improved blood circulation in a good way.
But, I Don’t Have Any Circulatory Problems
That’s awesome news. It means you have kept yourself healthy and follow a balanced lifestyle. However, remember the adage, prevention is better than cure. So eating dark chocolate in effect, is adding a dose of healthiness to your everyday life for it ensure, to an extent that your vascular system remains functioning at its optimum. The recommended “dose” of dark chocolate is 30 to 60gms every day (1 to 2 ounces) – the more the cocoa content, the better.
Simply put – other than putting you in a happy mood, making you lose some weight and reducing those general aches and pains; dark chocolate can really give your heart and the vascular system a super healthy boost. This is called guilt-free indulgence!
Featured photo credit: Everydayhealth via everydayhealth.com