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Cocoa: What It Does to the Heart

Cocoa is famous for its numerous health benefits, and one study gives us another reason to reach for that dark chocolate and give in.


A lot of people are in love with chocolates – and there is really nothing wrong with this, as long as the right kind of chocolate is consumed.  Dark chocolate is definitely way better than milk chocolate.  Aside from the health benefits provided by its rich cocoa content, it does not contain the same amount of sugar as the milk chocolate.  So the next time you feel the temptation to eat chocolate, give in – as long as it is of the dark kind. Remember this:  the darker the chocolate is, the higher is its cocoa content.

Recently, a group of researchers coming from Meiji Seika Kaisha’s Food and Health R&D Laboratories released the results of a study that they conducted regarding the effects of cocoa towards the promotion of a healthy heart.  The Japanese company’s researchers revealed that cocoa’s capability to potentially increase the levels of high density lipoprotein, or the good form of cholesterol, is linked to the presence of a protein that can enhance apolipoprotein A1 levels.  Also known as Apo-A1, apolipoprotein A1 is a compound that is needed for the body’s production of HDL cholesterol.

The researchers wrote in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that polyphenols present in cacao may be responsible for acting on pathways that are responsible for the metabolism of cholesterol.  They looked at the human intestinal cell effects of polyphenols found in cacao such as procyanidin, catechin, and epicatechin.  Results have shown that these polyphenols raised the protein levels of Apo-A1 while simultaneously lowering alipoprotein B levels which carries LDL cholesterol to the cells.

The Health Benefits of Cocoa

Aside from its polyphenol contents, the health benefits of cocoa are also taken from its component called flavonoids, which serve as major antioxidants to prevent any possible damage to the cellular system.  Free radicals bring about oxidative damage inside the body which could be factors in the development of chronic diseases like heart failure and cancer. The powder of cocoa can also help in lowering blood pressure and improving the blood circulation of every individual. Compared to green tea, just one cup of cocoa has about three times the antioxidants that a cup of green tea has.

Numerous health experts believe that cocoa can only work to your advantage if you would take it in quantities that are just enough. Overconsumption, of course, has its drawbacks.  When choosing a cocoa formulation, go for something that contains the least amount of cocoa.  There are a lot of cocoa powders that are available in the market today which contains various additives such as hydrogenated oils and corn syrup that are high in fructose. Hence, choose to consume the unprocessed type of cocoa powder.

Researchers from Cornell University said that the most ideal way of taking full advantage of cocoa benefits is through drinking. Taking in a cup of hot cocoa every once in a while can work as a great antioxidant just like wine and tea. It can also help steer one away from the impairment of the immune system and other inflammatory processes.

Show Some Love to Your Heart

To live with a healthy heart requires a lot more than just having a healthy diet. It also includes regular exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle. Here a few tips on how to ensure that your heart remains healthy all the time:

  • Limit your consumption of foods that have lots of trans-fat.  These are usually found in fried foods and margarine.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, then you must also limit your sugar intake. High amounts of glucose in the blood could lead to the development of diabetes, and this interferes with blood viscosity.  A blood that is too viscous would cause problems in circulation and other organs of the body will not have their fare share of blood.  Because of this, the heart has to pump doubly hard to ensure that blood is supplied to all organs.  Overworking the heart could lead to its enlargement (cardiomegaly), or worse, heart failure.
  • Only utilize extra virgin olive oil and add some garlic when you cook to help in lowering your cholesterol along with adding some Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Exercise for about 3 to 4 times a week and then stick to this routine.  Lifting weights is not required but doing cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercises can work wonders to your heart.  So set some time each day where you can perform exercises that you are capable of doing. What is important is that you have the desire to start incorporating changes in your lifestyle, one step at a time. Remember to stay hydrated too and warm up before each exercise session.
  • To add up to your healthy diet and exercise, try your best to steer away from any kind of vices like smoking and drinking too much alcoholic beverages.
  • Manage your stress levels and implement ways to cope.  Attend a yoga class, meditate each day or just simple do deep breathing exercises.  Take time to rest, get lots of sleep since this will help your body heal.
  • Watch out for your weight too since obesity is one of the primary causes of heart disease.
  • If your cholesterol level is high then you can naturally lower it by using several herbal extracts along with fish oil. It could help for you to know that 20% of your cholesterol level is sourced from the foods you consume while the rest of the 80% is produced by your liver. If your fat levels are high, then you must go easy on your carbohydrate and sugar consumption. To lower this, you can take in fish oil, some sufficient amount of vitamin C and even green tea.

Your heart’s health, and your general health as well, is in your hands – and the first step is to make the decision to start living healthy.  Each of your action and decision affects you, and the people around you, so nothing is really too small.  You see, even your choice of chocolate has the potential to affect your longevity.

Sources
nutraingredients.com
naturalhealthezine.com
healthy-heart-guide.com
womenfitness.net

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  2. Cocoa: The New Mainstream Medicine?
  3. Your Heart Truly Loves Chocolate!
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  5. Something Bitter for Your Sweetheart’s Skin
  


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