Better Nutrition - - HEALTHY DISH -

When­ever re­searchers talk about the ben­e­fits of dark co­coa, some­one is bound to bring up the Kuna In­di­ans. The Kuna live off the coast of Panama, and they’re un­usual be­cause their blood pres­sure pretty much stays the same through­out their life­span. And that just doesn’t hap­pen any­where else. Un­like Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans, the Kuna don’t ex­pe­ri­ence the dan­ger­ous rise in blood pres­sure that ac­com­pa­nies ag­ing and in­creases the risk for heart dis­ease and di­a­betes. How can this be? Some re­searchers think it’s the co­coa. Kuna In­di­ans drink about 5 cups of the stuff ev­ery day.

Co­coa is loaded with com­pounds called flavonoids, which are also found in cran­ber­ries, ap­ples, straw­ber­ries, onions, tea, and red wine, plac­ing choco­late in ex­cel­lent com­pany. In plants, flavonoids pro­vide shield­ing from en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins, and when we con­sume flavonoid- rich foods, we ab­sorb a lot of those pro­tec­tive ben­e­fits.

Flavonoids in co­coa are called fla­vanols, and co­coa fla­vanols pre­vent fat­like sub­stances in the blood­stream from clog­ging the ar­ter­ies— which is sim­i­lar to the ac­tion of a baby as­pirin. When you re­duce the blood’s abil­ity to clot, you also re­duce the risk of heart at­tack and stroke. As a bonus, co­coa also con­tains mag­ne­sium, one of the most im­por­tant min­er­als for heart health.

Fla­vanols in co­coa also mod­u­late a com­pound in the body called ni­tric ox­ide, which is crit­i­cal for healthy blood flow and car­dio­vas­cu­lar health. ( That’s why beet- juice prod­ucts are all the rage now— they in­crease ni­tric ox­ide!) In a 2011 study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal, re­searchers found that the high­est lev­els of co­coa con­sump­tion were as­so­ci­ated with a 37 per­cent re­duc­tion in car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

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