If you have high blood pressure, you might be looking for a natural way to lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack or stroke. You’ve heard about the health benefits dark chocolate is reported to have—from antioxidants that protect our bodies against cell damage to heart-healthy monounsaturated fat to a variety of vitamins and minerals. But does dark chocolate lower blood pressure?
There’s good news for chocolate lovers—the answer is yes! Keep reading to about the many benefits of eating dark chocolate, including how dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.
Dark Chocolate and High Blood Pressure
Dark chocolate comes in a range of cacao percentages, which you’ll find on the chocolate bar label. The percentage tells you the amount of cacao solids in the chocolate bar compared to other fillers like sugar, vanilla or soy lecithin. The higher the cacao percentage, the more health benefits you’ll find. This is because cacao beans are abundant with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that provides a number of heart healthy benefits. Flavanols, a class of flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, are found two to three times more often in the cocoa solids used to produce dark chocolate than in milk chocolate.
Is there a dark chocolate blood pressure connection? Yes—the flavonoids in dark chocolate lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to relax. Numerous studies have revealed the connection between dark chocolate and blood pressure. In a Harvard study, researchers looked at 24 chocolate studies involving 1,106 people. Their findings—dark chocolate that contains at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa lowered blood pressure in all participants, but especially in those with hypertension.
Is dark chocolate good for high blood pressure? Good news—yet another study showed that, on average, those who were borderline for hypertension and not on any blood pressure medication or nutritional supplements lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by almost three points and their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by nearly two points.
With all this information about the chocolate blood pressure relationship, you may be wondering, is chocolate good for low blood pressure too? According to some studies, chocolate has little to no effect on those with normal blood pressure.
Of course, dark chocolate, like any treat, must be consumed in moderation in order for you to receive the most benefit. About 30 calories a day—one small square—has been shown to lower blood pressure without contributing to weight gain.
Even though studies have shown that eating dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure, you’ll want to remember that dark chocolate is not a substitute for medication if you suffer from high blood pressure. However, dark chocolate can complement other treatment options.
Another thing to be aware of is that chocolate contains caffeine, which can temporarily increase blood pressure. According to the US Department of Agriculture, a 3.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate contains about 86 milligrams of caffeine—which is more than what’s in a 6-ounce cup of coffee. If you avoid coffee because of the caffeine, you’ll want to avoid chocolate too.
Benefit from Dark Chocolate
You can benefit from dark chocolate in other ways as well. While the benefits of dark chocolate and blood pressure are important, dark chocolate provides other health benefits like protein and fiber, and it’s rich in vitamins and minerals. Vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5, B9 and E abound in high-percentage cacao dark chocolate along with minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc. The amount of magnesium found in cacao beans is higher than that of any other plant. Magnesium helps with relaxation, regulates the digestive, neurological and cardiovascular systems, and heals muscles throughout the body.
In addition to eating chocolate for blood pressure results, dark chocolate offers many other health benefits. Some of the most well-publicized benefits of dark chocolate concern its effects on heart health. The same properties in flavonoids that help blood vessels relax and lower blood pressure can also reduce the risk of heart failure and prevent atrial fibrillation, which is characterized by an irregular heartbeat, lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, increase HDL “good” cholesterol levels and increase vascular function.
The flavonoids found in dark chocolate have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and improve overall brain health. This increased blood flow to the brain improves memory, attention span and learning. It may also reduce the chance of developing neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Plant-based fats called monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) boost metabolism and are found in dark chocolate. These MUFAs help reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer and support weight loss.
The epicatechin in dark chocolate increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood and supports circulation. It is especially beneficial for athletes who want to maintain an intense workout for a longer period of time.
Other benefits of dark chocolate include the following:
- Reduces the risk of diabetes by decreasing insulin resistance
- Enhances vision
- Improves sleep by increasing serotonin levels
- Improves blood flow to the skin and protects it from sun damage
- Increases energy levels
- Improves capillary growth in muscles
- Protects against damage from free radicals that weaken cells and can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, clogged arteries, cancer and autoimmune disorders
Dark chocolate’s anti-inflammatory properties improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce the risk of diabetes. Polyphenols activate changes in blood sugarevels, and flavonoids reduce oxidative stress. When this happens, glucose, or blood sugar, gets into your cells more easily to decrease blood sugar levels.
Each month at Cococlectic, we feature a different American small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker who is passionate about producing their chocolate from scratch using only three main ingredients: cacao beans, sugar and cocoa butter.
The chocolates sold at Cococlectic are vegan, non-GMO, fair trade and ethically sourced. They do not contain any soy, gluten, dairy or nut, but they may be produced in a facility that handles these ingredients.
We sell only dark chocolate bars in our chocolate shop. Monthly subscription boxes, one-time gift boxes or corporate gift boxes containing your choice of dark bars only or mixed bars with inclusions of fruits and nuts are available with the purchase of the Office Box. Each chocolate box comes with 4 full-size dark chocolate bars that are made in the US.
Sign up for our chocolate-of-the-month subscription club and join us for a free virtual chocolate tasting with our featured chocolate maker of the month.