Healthy Living

Dark Chocolate Lightens Heart

Here's good news for the lovers of dark chocolate! It's good for the heart.

As dark chocolates contains high quantities of antioxidants called flavonoids, which prevent arteries from hardening, a study has found that eating a few squares a day could help prevent problems with blood flow. And remember these benefits are not shared by milk chocolate, because the milk interferes with the effect of the flavonoids.

In the study, tests were carried out on 20 smokers were asked to eat foods rich in antioxidants such as onions, apples and cabbage. And it was shown in the results that they have an increased risk of hardened arteries and heart disease.

They were then fed 2-ounce portions of different types of chocolate. After two hours, those who had eaten dark chocolate made up of at least 74 percent cocoa solids were found to have "significantly improved" blood flow. The effect lasted for eight hours.

Dr. Roberto Corti, who led the study at University Hospital, Zurich, said, "Only a small daily treat of dark chocolate may substantially increase the amount of antioxidant intake and beneficially affect vascular health." But Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, of the British Heart Foundation, warned that chocolate was still extremely high in calories. "The key thing to remember about such studies is that chocolate is a bigger part of the problem than the solution," she said.

But there are much better ways of improving your heart health, such as eating a varied diet including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Cut Cholesterol In 6 Steps

Cut Cholesterol In 6 Steps*

Good cholesterol management can lead to a longer life. And low cholesterol can increase your bone strength and it can improve your sexual performance. Now prevention is within your control!

1. Know Your Numbers

Get your cholesterol levels checked every year, beginning at age 40. A simple blood test is all that is required, and results are generally available within a week.

2. What Not to Eat

Avoid anything that is deep-fried. 
Avoid foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils - these include margarine, pastries, packaged cookies, potato chips and other snack foods. 
Avoid cheese and other dairy products, poultry skin and red meat.

3. What to Eat

Increase your intake of soy products such as tofu, soymilk, soy protein powder and soy/veggie burgers. Other items for your shopping list:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lentils and dried beans
  • Fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel
  • Flaxseed
  • Oatmeal
  • Olive oil

4. Exercise

Physical activity can greatly affect your cholesterol levels. By exercising, you raise your metabolism and burn calories, losing fat weight. Exercise also increases the good HDL cholesterol, which helps prevent plaque from forming on the walls of the arteries.

5. Chill Out

Fatigue, anger and distress can raise your body's adrenaline levels, causing cholesterol to rise. Practice relaxation and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises. Guided imagery - visualizing positive situations and beautiful scenes - has also been found to control stress.

6. Think about Medications

When diet, exercise and stress reduction aren't enough to get cholesterol into the safe zone, physicians prescribe statins, which are able to control an enzyme in the body that is responsible for the manufacture of lipids, also known as fats. This control process reduces the body's production of cholesterol. Know that possible side effects of statins include muscle pains and elevation of liver function. Consult your physician to see if medication is right for you.

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