Did you know that eating dark chocolate can promote heart health? Find out why, along with 4 more sweet foods that help your heart.
When you’re craving something sweet, it can be hard to resist your favorite candy, pastries, or other sweet treats. Before you know it, the item is moving from your hand to your mouth to your stomach. Then you look down and it disappears.
Of course, it won’t hurt to indulge once in a while. But if you’re regularly giving in to your sweet tooth, eating more than 100 to 150 calories a day of added sugar, it could be bad for your heart. (1)
1. Dark chocolate
Research has found that consuming just one serving of 85% dark chocolate helps improve heart health by buffering the cardiovascular system’s response to acute stress. (2) Other health benefits of this sweet include reduced inflammation, reduced risk of stroke and heart arrhythmia, improved cholesterol, and good circulation. (3)
Not everyone likes the taste of dark chocolate, as it is generally more bitter than other types of chocolate. But if you do, choose one with at least 70% cacao content, the higher the better, and limit yourself to one ounce per day, as dark chocolate is still high in calories. (4)
2. Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate (or plain)
Do you like strawberries dipped in dark chocolate? Feel free to grab a few when your craving for something sweet hits, because not only does dark chocolate have benefits for your heart, but so do strawberries.
Some studies have linked strawberries to improved circulation in people with higher cholesterol, primarily through their effects on flow-mediated dilation and blood pressure. (5) Of course, you don’t have to dip these berries in dark chocolate if you don’t want to, because they’re just as good on their own.
3. Orange slices in yogurt, with cinnamon
While bitter oranges are good for your gut and bone health, sweet oranges (which include oranges, blood oranges and tangerines) are good for your heart by helping to protect against high cholesterol. They also offer some protection against diabetes and obesity. (6) Plus, they’re easy to grab and go.
If you want a sweet treat with a little more substance, you can add orange slices to a glass of plain yogurt for a more heart-healthy snack. Yogurt consumption has been linked to better cardiovascular health, as well as improving the health of your gastrointestinal and skeletal systems. (7) Sprinkle some cinnamon on top for an extra indulgence.
4. Sweet cherry
You can also add sweet cherries to your yogurt or eat it alone. This fruit benefits your cardiovascular system by helping to reduce free radicals and pro-inflammatory markers, limiting the effects of oxidative stress. (8)
Which types of cherries are sweet? Look for Bing, Lambert, and Rainier cherries at the grocery store or farmer’s market because they are all sweeter. Sweet cherries also tend to be firmer and larger, so look for these traits if the variety isn’t labeled.
Small boxes of raisins have long been promoted as healthy additions to children’s lunches. This is partly because raisin consumption is associated with higher diet quality and better nutrient intake, both of which are associated with better heart health. (9)
But there are a few more reasons to include them in your meals as an adult. These include improving oral health, reducing appetite and benefiting the gut microbiota. (10) That makes this dried fruit as good for your body as it is for satisfying your sweet tooth.