Women and heart attacks, we know the risks linked to HRT use, and many women for health and dietary reasons try to give it up. Well, you don’t need to give up chocolate – although I don’t advocate eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner – at least not every day!
Cocoa has been validated as having cardiovascular benefits and a recent 2011 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has shed new light on a mechanism that helps to explain some of chocolate’s heart-healthy effects. So what health benefits can chocolate offer to women?
- Inhibits the oxidation of LDL
- Improves endothelial function
- Inhibits platelet activation
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Reduces inflammatory proteins such as NF-kB
These multiple benefits are also found in everyday items like tea, fruit, vegetables and red wine so you can aim for a balanced diet!
Polyphenols are certainly beneficial to cardiovascular health and particularly interesting is the effect of cocoa on the principle proteins in LDL and HDL particles. New research has shown that polyphenols in cocoa increase LDL receptor activity, which decreases ApoB – the main protein in LDL particles. Also, the polyphenols apparently activate genes that increase levels of ApoA1, the main protein that makes up HDL2b particles (large HDL). This helps to explain why chocolate has been shown to lower LDL and increase HDL. And if you are tired of all those initials just think ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
So enjoying chocolate in moderation on a regular basis seems to be able to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and inhibit LDL oxidation. Raw chocolate of course has more of these benefits than processed, and you can add it to smoothies, drinks and shakes. If you prefer to go for regular chocolate than make sure you have dark (plain) chocolate with a high cocoa content of at least 75%. Less than this and it will have a high proportion of sugar and that can diminish the positive effects of the cocoa.