This will in turn reduce the chance of developing heart disease simply because high blood pressure or hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease.
Researchers at the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany have found that consuming cocoa-rich foods, even small quantities, can help lower both systolic and diastolic (top and bottom numbers in a blood pressure reading) pressure levels by as much as an average of 4.7 and 2.8 points, respectively.
Dietitians always believe that cocoa is good for health because it contains natural antioxidant compounds, known as polyphenols and flavanoids. This antioxidant protection also extends to the heart as the fat content in cocoa butter (stearic acid) exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response.
The researchers concluded that cocoa had much more of an impact on reducing one’s blood pressure as compared with green tea, which also contains polyphenols. In fact, the results of consuming cocoa drinks were found to be similar to the effect that patients experienced from being on a one-drug therapy for their conditions.
Based on the findings, researchers expected the effects of cocoa could reduce heart disease by 10 percents, stroke by 20 percents, and death from all causes by 8 percents.
In another research conducted at the Netherlands’ Centre for Nutrition and Health, it was found that a higher amount of cocoa in a higher amount of cocoa in one’s diet was linked to lower blood pressure levels and a reduced risk of death among the participants. The project involved studying the cocoa intake of 470 elderly men over 15 years.
But this does not mean that you should eat as much chocolate bars and cocoa related foods as you can. As you know, cocoa products, while rich in antioxidants, are also high in sugar, calorie and fat content. Too much can just have the reverse effect – putting on weight. This will put you at risk of increased blood pressure.
Bear in mind that not all cocoa products are good for us. The rule of thumb is that the higher the cocoa content in the product, the better it is. For instance, dark chocolate that has as much as 80 percents of cocoa solids added is better than milk chocolate, which usually contains less than 20 percents of the solids.
We do not need to consume large amounts of cocoa-rich products to have an effect. Eating about 10 g of dark chocolate (equivalent in size to a cube of chicken stock) everyday, for example, is sufficient to see the benefits on one’s blood pressure levels.
One dietitian has suggests to eat 50 g of dark chocolate once or twice a week, as having too much of it can lead to weight gain. As far as possible, chocolate should be included as part of a whole meal plan, since one can also get polyphenols by eating more fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of the antioxidant.
Other foods that are beneficial for people with high blood pressure include low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts. Doctors also advise cutting back on salt and making sure your diet has adequate potassium (found in yoghurt, cauliflower, salmon, broccoli) as an inadequate amount could raise blood pressure. Besides foods, regular exercises do help lower blood pressure.
On the other hand, smoking could cause as much as a 20-point spike in systolic blood pressure levels, so it is best to stay away from cigarettes and alcohol.