Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sweet Eating for Heart Health

It is never too soon to eat smart for your heart. When your cardiovascular system starts to fail (and you will not feel it), your quality of life is impaired forever.  Actually, atherosclerosis (plaque in your arteries) often begins in your teens.

Great news is, being younger, you can take steps now to protect your heart and keep it in good shape.  Remove fried and junk foods from your regular diet. Exercise. Limit alcohol intake (besides, you do not want a DUI!).

And for that occasional treat... indulge in sweet, delicious dark chocolate!  Dark chocolate contains flavanols, a type of antioxidant that helps your cells resist damage caused by free radicals. Flavanols have been shown by medical researchers to have the ability to help maintain healthy blood pressure, improve blood flow to your heart and brain, and to help ensure your blood platelets resist sticking together, causing dangerous clotting.

Chocolate is made from cocoa, a plant naturally packed with flavanols.  When purchasing chocolate for your siggy other this Valentine's Day, not any candy will do.  The typical chocolate candy found at checkout counters has added sugars, and if it's milk chocolate, has much more of the bad fat.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, "The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed. For now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars), and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity)."

Red wine, besides making for a more romantic Valentine's Day celebration, is also loaded with heart-healthy flavonoids (flavanols).  So give your sweetness (and yourself) a scrumptious dark chocolate (and red wine) treat for heart health!

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