The prevalence of the cardiovascular disease is increasing due to the poor lifestyle choices people are making these days. Your diet plays a big role in the development of heart disease. Once you are suffering from or at risk of heart disease, many dietary limitations are put in place to reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease.
A high cholesterol level is a risk factor for heart disease. To reduce this risk, you must make dietary changes that lower cholesterol levels in the body. That is why we’re looking at dark chocolate and cholesterol today.
I know that once you hear the word chocolate, your mind already clicks on increased sugar and bad health. But after reading this article today you will give dark chocolate cholesterol a chance. Sweet tooth individuals are already dancing with joy at this news, I see you!
What Is Dark Chocolate?
The kind of chocolate you consume in your healthy diet matters because it is the cocoa health benefits that we are after in your chocolate.
Dark chocolate is a type of chocolate that contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The main difference between dark chocolate and white chocolate is the percentage of cocoa powder in the chocolate and the ingredients used in making the chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains 50% to 90% cocoa and does not contain any milk or butter that is used in making milk chocolate. On the other hand, white chocolate contains 10% to 50% of cocoa and contains milk and butter. In addition, dark chocolate contains less sugar compared to white chocolate.
What makes dark chocolate healthy? Isn’t dark chocolate cholesterol unhealthy? The health benefits of dark chocolate are attributed to the high amounts of cocoa in this type of chocolate. Cocoa flavanols and polyphenols in dark chocolate are associated with lowering cholesterol levels in the body.
What To Know About Cholesterol
We tend to be scared of cholesterol because our minds have been programmed to associate it with increased heart disease risk. But truth be told, not all cholesterol is bad cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are what you should be worried about more than cholesterol itself.
Eradicating cholesterol from the diet comes with its problems. Cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance is essential in hormone production, an important component in cell membrane manufacturing, and also plays a significant role in making vitamin D. Extremely low cholesterol levels could contribute to developing cancer, depression, and hemorrhagic stroke.
You can make cholesterol in the liver, and it can make enough for it to perform its necessary functions in the body. The remaining cholesterol we get from our diet is from consuming animal products. Foods that contain cholesterol include meat, poultry, and dairy products.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol. LDL is a bad type of cholesterol associated with an increased risk of heart conditions.
High cholesterol levels (of the bad kind) increase the deposition of plaque in blood vessels. This deposition narrows and hardens arteries, making blood flow difficult. It leads to increased blood pressure levels in the arteries to increase the supply of oxygen despite the resistance.
When plaques increase in size and break off from blood vessels’ walls, they can cause blood clots, which can block major arteries leading to stroke.
Increasing good HDL cholesterol levels will increase the collection of LDL cholesterol for the breakdown in the liver. Also, reducing the consumption of foods rich in LDL or those that affect cholesterol levels will help lower total cholesterol levels in the blood.
Foods that are sources of bad cholesterol or that can raise cholesterol levels include red meat, alcohol consumption, fried foods, and commercially baked foods. Frying foods increase amounts of saturated fat, while processed foods contain high trans fat content which increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. You should avoid these foods in your heart-healthy diet.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, from 100g of dark chocolate containing 70% to 85% cacao solid, you will get:
- Energy: 598 kcals
- Protein: 7.79 g
- Fat: 42.6 g
- Carbs: 45.9 g
- Dietary fiber: 10.9 g
- Sugars: 24 g
- Calcium: 73 g
- Magnesium: 228 mg
- Iron: 11.9 g
- Phosphorus: 208 mg
- Potassium: 715 mg
- Sodium: 20 mg
- Manganese: 1.95 mg
- Copper: 1.77 mg
When talking about chocolate, I am recommending the one made from natural cocoa with no added sugar. Avoid the regular chocolate bars with added sugar and low cocoa content, and pick the healthier version which is dark chocolate.
Is Dark Chocolate Good For Cholesterol?
I know it is hard to believe that after all the restrictions placed on your diet to preserve heart health, there is a finger-licking dessert left that you can enjoy that won’t worsen the matter. Your argument would be based on the fact that chocolate is high in saturated fat and sugar, so why give dark chocolate a chance? Well, research has shown that dark chocolate has health benefits compared to other forms of chocolate.
Does Dark Chocolate Lower Cholesterol?
A study to investigate the effects of long-term consumption of dark chocolate on serum lipids and lipid peroxidation reported that dark chocolate and high polyphenol chocolate increased HDL cholesterol while chocolate fatty acids increased LDL resistance to oxidative damage.
A randomized controlled feeding trial published by the American Heart Association assessed the effects of dark chocolate and almonds on cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. The evidence suggests consuming dark chocolate alone improved lipid profiles. Your risks of developing coronary heart disease are lowered when you eat almonds with dark chocolate.
A meta-analysis to examine the relationship between eating chocolate and diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease reported a risk reduction in developing stroke and coronary heart disease. The peak protective effects of dark chocolate were observed at 2 servings per week, with no benefits emerging after increasing consumption to 6 servings a week. Eating dark chocolate in moderate amounts lower fasting blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance in diabetics.
The mechanism of action of dark chocolate’s cholesterol-lowering effects can be attributed to its flavonoids. Flavonoids reduce weight in obese patients, insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and fat and lipid profile. They lower bad cholesterol and total cholesterol by promoting fat and energy metabolism. Flavonoids are also antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects on the body by modulating pathways like the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway.
What Is Dark Chocolate Cholesterol Level?
In 100g of dark chocolate, you will get 8g of cholesterol. From its nutrition facts, you can tell that dark chocolate is a rich source of saturated fat that has bad press out there. To which you will say isn’t dark chocolate cholesterol bad? First, eating saturated fat in moderation is not bad for heart health.
Moreover, one-third of saturated fat in dark chocolate is stearic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat but it has a neutral effect on bad cholesterol, it doesn’t raise or lower it. Some research has shown that stearic acid may be as effective as oleic acid in lowering plasma cholesterol. It also contains oleic acid like olive oil, a monounsaturated triglyceride, with cardio-protective effects.
What Food Best Pairs with Dark Chocolate to Lower Cholesterol?
Almonds and dark chocolate are a match made in heaven. Eating almonds and cocoa can help reduce bad cholesterol in obese and overweight individuals reducing your risks of atherosclerosis.
Almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa contain a lot of calories and in combination may lead to overconsumption of calories. Take note of the amounts of almonds and dark chocolate you eat so that they do not surpass your energy needs.
Why are we advocating for almonds and dark chocolate as discretionary foods? Almonds are rich in unsaturated fats which are good for the heart compared to saturated and trans fats and improve lipid profile.
Dark chocolate on its own does not have a significant effect on lipid profile because dark chocolate cholesterol has a neural effect on lipids, but research has shown combining it with almonds leads to better results in lipid, apolipoprotein, and lipoprotein profile.
What Is The Best Dark Chocolate For Lowering Cholesterol?
When choosing dark chocolate that is good for lowering cholesterol, pick one with a high cocoa content. Check the labels to know how much cocoa solid is in your dark chocolate. Eat dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% to 85%.
You will get better blood cholesterol-lowering effects from almond and dark chocolate together over plain dark chocolate. So if your dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and almonds, you have hit the jackpot.
Cocoa is delicious even without adding sugar so unsweetened dark chocolate would still taste as good. Eat dark chocolate made from unsweetened cocoa powder, which means it has 0% added sugar. Natural cocoa powder is loaded with antioxidants, catechins, polyphenols, and flavanols which have numerous health benefits for your body.
Choose organic chocolate too which does not contain lots of chemicals that can be harmful to your health.
If the chocolate you want to eat has a cocoa content of 70% and above, is organic, contains almonds, and is unsweetened then that is the best for lowering bad cholesterol. Lily’s sweets and Choco Zero are examples of dark chocolates you can enjoy flavoured with monk fruit and erythritol that won’t affect your blood glucose levels.
How Much Dark Chocolate Per Day Lowers Cholesterol?
I would advise taking a quarter cup, one ounce of dark chocolate or 2 1/3 tablespoons of cocoa powder a day to help you lower your risk of coronary heart disease. Two servings a week of dark chocolate combined with one-third cup of almonds can help you achieve a significant reduction in plasma lipid concentration.
Taking 6 servings a week has shown to have no significant effects on your lipid profile. So small amounts go a long way in this case. Don’t overdo it.
Other Health Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate
Consuming dark chocolate doesn’t only have benefits on your cholesterol levels but also other benefits to your health. These include:
- Reduced blood pressure: Research has shown that consuming chocolate can be a natural way to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow in your blood vessels. Dark chocolate flavanols increase the production of nitric oxide that helps with vasodilation of the smooth muscles on blood vessel walls promoting blood flow.
It is loaded with magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper which play a significant role in regulating blood pressure.
- Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties: Polyphenols, catechins, and flavonols in dark chocolate are antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. Did you know that cocoa contains more antioxidants than berries? Now you know!
- Improve brain health: Why is it that when you take dark chocolate you are more alert and more attentive? I knew your answer would be caffeine! There’s more to it than this. High consumption of cocoa increased cognitive and brain function due to increased brain oxygenation attributed to more cerebral blood flow.
It also contains theobromine which has antitumoral, cardioprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties which could enhance brain function.
- Lowers stress levels: Dark chocolate lowers adrenaline and cortisol hormones which are associated to enhancing stress.
- Decreases risks of some cancers like breast, prostate and skin cancer.
- Improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance
- Improves mood: More research is needed to understand the correlation between dark chocolate, cocoa and mood. The assumption is it has mood-altering properties because it increases serotonin levels in the body. The polyphenols and theobromine may also be associated with these properties.
Another mechanism is attributed to the effects of dark chocolate on the gut-brain axis. Dark chocolate has been proven to have prebiotic effects on gut microbiome, therefore believed to be able to change negative emotions via the gut-brain axis.
- Improves physical performance.
- Good for skin health: Dark chocolate increases production of nitric oxide that increases skin circulation. Flavanols also have photo protective properties, increases skin hydration and density and promote blood flow in the skin.
- Reduce metabolic syndrome: This is because it improves blood sugar control, lipid profile and lowers blood pressure.
These benefits on lipid profile and brain function are what make dark chocolate allowed on a ketogenic diet as a keto food.
Important thing to note is that cocoa has high oxalates content, so if you are at risk of or suffer from kidney stones, you are better off avoiding it.
Chocolate doesn’t have to be the bad guy, as long as you pick the healthy type. The dark chocolate variety can be beneficial to your heart. Almond dark chocolate can be the perfect alternative for other discretionary foods like donuts because of its effect on lipid profile.
Are you a sweet tooth? Do you love dark chocolate? What is your opinion on unsweetened almond dark chocolate? Let me know in the comment section below!