6. Swap out milk chocolate for dark chocolate or raw cocoa.
You may have heard reports that chocolate has many health benefits, but processing chocolate reduces those benefits to practically zero. As such, most of the chocolate you eat probably has an adverse health effect, meaning that the bad far outweighs any potential good. Milk chocolate is so heavily processed that there is nothing good left in it, and then so much sugar is added that the result will be elevated blood pressure. Plus, milk chocolate is usually designed to taste so good that you keep eating it without ever feeling truly satisfied.
Dark chocolate is different. While you want to avoid overindulging in massive quantities, dark chocolate has a rich flavor that will leave you feeling more satisfied, causing you to eat less. Plus, it is not heavily processed, so it retains the flavonoids you have probably heard about. Flavonoids are critical plant-based compounds that lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to dilate. Constricted blood vessels are associated with high blood pressure, and the beginnings of heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis, but dilated blood vessels allow blood to flow more freely throughout the body.
Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure over the short term. Again, you don’t want to overindulge, especially if you are trying to lose weight. However, swapping out milk chocolate for dark chocolate is a small change that can make a big difference. If you enjoy hot chocolate, stop buying powdered mixes instead of making your own using raw cocoa that has not been alkalized. Hot chocolate mixes are high in sugar and don’t retain the cocoa bean’s flavonoids, but natural cocoa powder preserves these health benefits.