Protect Your Heart with a Little Dark Chocolate

When you’re trying to limit the amount of sodium you consume to no more than 2,300 mg a day, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s a proven way to prevent high blood pressure and protect your heart.

How do you control sodium levels in your diet? By following a diet of mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, legumes, and plenty of water. Consume less sodium, and you’ll be less likely to develop hypertension and heart-related problems.

Does that mean you have to settle for eating “clean” all the time and avoid a sweet treat? No. But that doesn’t mean you can go on an ice cream and junk food binge. You’ll have to be a little more selective about the sweets  you do have.

Got a craving for chocolate? Go ahead and enjoy a few pieces of dark chocolate. In a recent study published in the journal Heart, researchers followed 55,502 people for 14 years. They tracked 192 nutrition habits, including the amount of dark chocolate people ate. And researchers compared the nutrition data to reported cases of atrial fibrillation. It’s a condition that appears as an irregular heartbeat that can trigger a stroke, heart attack, or other serious health problems.

If you eat too much dark chocolate, there’s an obvious downside...weight gain. It’s high in calories and does contain higher amount of fat and sugar. But in just the right amount, researchers found that eating dark chocolate can be beneficial, especially for heart health.

People who ate 1 to 3 one-ounce servings of dark chocolate a month were 10 percent less likely to experience an irregular heartbeat than non-dark chocolate eaters. Have a bigger sweet tooth than that? No problem. Those who ate one serving of dark chocolate a week cut their risk by 17 percent. And those who ate 2 to 6 servings of dark chocolate a week were 20 percent less likely to experience and irregular heartbeat.

Obviously, you can’t overindulge in dark chocolate and expect healthy results. But a bite of dark chocolate after a meal a few times a week or so, can provide protective benefits. So what should you eat before your dark chocolate dessert? Try one of our Low-Sodium meals that each include a main course and one or two side dishes.