Multiple research studies have shown that eating a small piece of dark chocolate (1/16- piece bar) daily may decrease your blood pressure by up to three points. Dark chocolate contains cocoa polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant antioxidants found in vegetables, red wine, fruits and cocoa. Polyphenols in turn increase the production of our own body’s nitric oxide, a compound that helps to relax and open the blood vessels and subsequently reduces blood pressure. Research suggests that unlimited amounts dark chocolate won’t work, because its potential benefit of lowering blood pressure could be offset by the high sugar, fat and calorie content in cocoa products. Dark chocolate with cocoa content greater than 50 percent is more beneficial than milk chocolate, which has lower polyphenol content, and its milk proteins prevent polyphenol absorption. People who are sensitive to caffeine and people with diabetes or kidney disease should be careful about consuming dark chocolate. Chocolate is not a magic bullet, but it is a small tool that can aid to better our health.
This nutrition tip is from Dr. Kathryn Kolasa, registered dietitian and professor of family medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, and Eva Kyritsis, medical student.