Dark Cocoa FEATURED INGREDIENT:
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.