Did you know that you can lower your blood pressure while indulging in chocolate? Yes, we aren’t joking! Find out how chocolate lowers your BP, how much you should eat. and much more!
Having hypertension as a food-lover can sometimes be hard. The list of foods to avoid may seem endless. But if you love chocolate, we have good news for you! Several studies conducted over the years have found that chocolate and blood pressure control go hand in hand. Find out how much, when, and what type of chocolate to eat to control your blood pressure.
Chocolate: Nutritional Profile
Dark chocolate is made from the fruit of Theobroma cacao (cacao trees). The fruit contains beans that are fermented and roasted in order to make chocolate. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants known as flavonoids, fiber, carbohydrates, fats, potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin K, vitamin A, and other micronutrients.
The following is the nutritional profile for 100 g of dark chocolate (based on the concentration of cocoa solids) and milk chocolate, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
|Dark Chocolate, 70 to 85% cocoa
|Dark Chocolate, 60 to 69% cocoa
|Milk Chocolate, <50% cocoa
|Total Lipids (fat)
|42.6 g24.5 g12.8 g1.26 g0.03 g
|38.3 g22 g11.5 g1.22 g0.079 g
|29.7 g18.5 g7.19 g1.38 g0 g
What Type of Chocolate is Good for High Blood Pressure?
The best type of chocolate for high blood pressure management is bittersweet dark chocolate that is rich in cocoa solids. Any chocolate that has 50 to 90% cocoa solids is called dark chocolate. Cocoa solids are the parts of the cocoa beans that remain after the fats (cocoa butter) are extracted.
These cocoa solids are rich in flavonoids like catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, etc., which are thought to have blood pressure-lowering properties. The cocoa solids also give the chocolate a bitter flavor. Thus, eating bitter dark chocolate with at least 75% cocoa solids can help lower your blood pressure.
What are the Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Blood Pressure Control?
Reduces endothelial cell damage
Dark chocolate is thought to have 4 times the amount of flavonoids present in tea. Flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent damage caused to the endothelial cells in the inner linings of your blood vessels. Damaged endothelial cells and chronic inflammation are usually seen in the starting stages of hypertension and can lead to clogged and narrowed arteries.
Relaxes blood vessels
Dark chocolate also helps increase the levels of nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide widens your arteries by causing the smooth muscle around your blood vessels to relax, which lowers your blood pressure levels.
Reduces bad cholesterol levels
Some studies have found that consuming dark chocolate regularly can also help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol levels while improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’) cholesterol levels. This prevents plaque (fatty deposits in the artery walls) formation and narrowing of arteries, thus reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
High potassium content
Dark chocolate is also high in potassium, which can help excrete excess sodium from your body. When your body has excess sodium, it retains water to maintain electrolyte balance. When too much water is retained in your body, it can add pressure to your artery walls, resulting in high blood pressure. Dietary potassium stabilizes your blood pressure by excreting excess sodium and water through urine.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat to Lower Blood Pressure?
You may be wondering, if dark chocolate is good for high BP, why is it not recommended more by doctors and cardiologists? This is because most of the beneficial flavonoids in chocolate are lost over the course of manufacturing.
Though some studies indicate that eating about 30 g of dark chocolate a day can help lower your blood pressure, other research states that at least 100 g of dark chocolate is required to make any difference in your blood pressure.
Most commercial chocolate bars are high in sugar and fats, which can adversely affect your blood pressure and heart health. So, it is advisable to limit your daily consumption of dark chocolate to 30 g (with >75% of cocoa solids).
What is the Best Time to Eat Dark Chocolate for High BP?
There is no fixed time for when dark chocolate has to be eaten. You can enjoy some dark chocolate as a dessert or as a snack between meals.
What is the Best Way to Incorporate Chocolate Into Your Diet?
- You can chop up and add some dark chocolate to hot oatmeal or cereal for flavor.
- You can drink some hot chocolate (without sugar) by adding cocoa powder to low-fat milk.
- You can blend in chocolate to your favorite smoothie made of blood pressure-lowering fruits like berries, bananas, avocados, etc.
- You can make a healthy chocolate syrup or drizzle by melting a bar of dark chocolate or cocoa powder in hot water. This drizzle can be added to fruit salads, sandwiches, milk, popcorn, etc.
Make sure to consume dark chocolate that does not have too much sugar or added caffeine as they can cause your blood pressure to rise.
Are There Any Risks of Overconsuming Chocolate?
- Dark chocolate often contains high levels of theobromine and caffeine. Excessive consumption of theobromine and caffeine can cause headaches, loss of appetite, restlessness, reduced quality of sleep, etc.
- Eating too much chocolate can cause weight gain as most chocolate is rich in saturated fats.
- Overconsuming chocolate can destabilize your blood sugar levels due to the high amounts of added sugar in most chocolate bars.
What are the Other Health Benefits of Chocolate?
- Flavonoids in dark chocolate may help improve insulin sensitivity, making it a good dessert option for diabetics.
- Dark chocolate has very high amounts of antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
- Flavonoids improve blood circulation, and the increased blood flow to your brain can contribute to improved brain function and alertness.
- Dark chocolate can also help in weight loss as it helps your body burn more calories and also curbs cravings.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Dark chocolate is the best type of chocolate if you have high blood pressure, as it is rich in flavonoids having antioxidant properties.
- Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants known as flavonoids, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, selenium, vitamin K, vitamin A, and several other micronutrients.
- Dark chocolate can help widen your arteries, improve blood flow, lower inflammation, prevent endothelial cell damage, and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels.
- The high potassium levels in dark chocolate can also lower blood pressure by removing excess sodium from your body.
- Limit your consumption of dark chocolate to 30 g a day.
- You can eat some dark chocolate between meals or after a meal as dessert.
- You can add dark chocolate to your cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or salads. You can also use it as a drizzle or topping or drink it in the form of hot chocolate.
- Eating too much dark chocolate can cause headaches, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, etc., due to high theobromine and caffeine content. It may also cause weight gain or a spike in your blood sugar levels due to the high sugar, carbohydrate, and saturated fat content.
- Dark chocolate can help improve insulin sensitivity, control blood sugar levels, curb appetite, improve brain function, and prevent cell damage caused by oxidative stress.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat high blood pressure problems together.
Friendly Asked Questions
Dark chocolate relaxes blood vessels and improves blood circulation, which can lead to lowered blood pressure levels. Hence, it may not be advisable to eat dark chocolate if you have hypotension or low blood pressure.
Yes, several studies have shown that dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure levels by improving blood circulation, widening arteries, and preventing plaque (fatty deposits in the artery walls) formation.
Hot chocolate is made from cocoa powder, which contains high levels of cocoa solids and flavonoids that lower your blood pressure. Make sure to not add too much sugar and only use low-fat milk when making hot chocolate.
Milk chocolate has a lower quantity of flavonoids and may have too much added sugar and fats, which can cause elevated blood pressure levels if consumed in excess.