Apples are full of heart healthy antioxidants, like anti-inflammatory quercetin. And studies suggest that dark chocolate keeps you healthy by reducing your risk of heart disease, increasing the elasticity of your blood vessels, enhancing brain and nervous system health, and helping to prevent diabetes and other diseases associated with inflammation. When eaten together, apples and dark chocolate help keep your heart health pumping strong by breaking up blood clots and lowering your risk of stroke.
To get maximum benefit, eat organic apples with the peel on—apple peels contain the most antioxidants—and purchase dark chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or higher—the higher the cacao content, the more antioxidant protection you’re getting, and with the sweet taste of the apple, you don’t have to worry about the bitterness. Apples dipped in melted dark chocolate, anyone?
Cacao: (or cocoa beans) are the unprocessed, dried seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. Raw cacao is made up of close to 400 polyphenols. You can eat them whole, or you can grind them up in your smoothies for an added antioxidant boost.
Cocoa: has been ground into a powder that’s typically fat free. How about some hot chocolate this winter?
Chocolate: the solid form of roasted cacao seeds. To get all the remarkable health benefits, consume dark chocolate that’s 70% cacao or more.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate don’t count! Milk chocolate contains miniscule amounts of healthy cacao, and white chocolate contains no cacao at all. These types of chocolate are really just milk and sugar, with no healthy benefit!
But when you eat dark chocolate you’re benefitting from two of the most noteworthy polyphenols of all: epicatechin and resveratrol. Epicatechin—the nutrient that’s made green tea so famous—has proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and research shows that it may even be able to protect nerve cells from damage. Resveratrol also has neuroprotective properties because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, thereby helping to regulate inflammation in your central nervous system (CNS). CNS-related inflammation is thought to give rise to various neurodegenerative diseases.
Dark chocolate is also rich in potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium…and in the stress-reducing nutrient valeric acid.
The Kuna Indians of Panama consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week…and enjoy remarkable heart health—less than a 10% risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes! And numerous studies show that cacao helps enhance heart health by keeping blood vessels pliable, the brain and nervous system functioning optimally, diabetes at bay, and inflammation-related diseases in check.
So whether you indulge in dark chocolate and apple fondue, or simply have a cup of hot cocoa with your apple a day, taking 5 minutes to enjoy the two together is a heart-healthy habit!