Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure
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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the stepping stone to serious health problems, ranging from heart attacks to strokes. While diet could be the very trigger for this condition, certain foods might also pose as an antidote. According to a review, published in BMC Medicine, one such treat is chocolate.
Although enjoying a square of milk chocolate stuffed with gooey caramel might be delicious, this type of chocolate won’t do anything good for your blood pressure.
Sadly, white chocolate doesn’t offer hypertension-lowering benefits either.
It’s the really dark stuff that can help get your levels to drop as it’s packed with plant compounds called flavanols.
The researchers wrote: “Dark chocolate and flavanol-rich cocoa products have attracted interest as an alternative treatment option for hypertension”.
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This review included different randomised controlled trials that investigated the effects of cocoa either as food or drink on blood pressure levels.
The trials included in the review had their participants drinking or eating the treat for a minimum of at least two weeks.
Settling on fifteen trials that met their criteria, the review concluded that cocoa chocolate offered a “significant blood pressure-reducing effect”.
However, researchers also noticed that only the participants with hypertension or prehypertension enjoyed this effect.
Blood pressure wasn’t “significantly” reduced in those with normal levels.
When it comes to the type of chocolate, the trials tended to use a chocolate that contained around 50 percent to 70 percent cocoa content.
In total, the daily flavanol dosages ranged from 30 mg to 1000 mg in the participant groups.
The positive results on high blood pressure were obvious in as little as two weeks. However, some trials were ongoing for the length of 18 weeks in total.
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The study researchers concluded: “Our meta-analysis suggests that dark chocolate is superior to placebo in reducing systolic hypertension or diastolic prehypertension.”
However, the research paper also suggests that commercially available chocolate bars might not be the best long-term treatment for blood pressure.
One key thing to consider is that if you reach for a sugar-filled chocolate, you won’t enjoy the same benefits.
The chocolate used in the trials was dark and high in flavonoids.
In fact, eating too much added sugar could even raise your high blood pressure levels.
Blood Pressure UK explains: “Foods with added sugar tend to be high in calories but often provide very little or no nutritional value.
“The extra energy can make you gain weight which can raise your blood pressure.”
That’s why the charity recommends cutting back on sugar. And this common ingredient doesn’t only travel to your tea on a spoon, it’s also hidden in foods you buy in the grocery store.
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