Did you know eating dark chocolate can help promote heart health? Discover why, along with 4 more sweet foods that help support your heart.
When you’re craving something sweet, it can be hard to resist your favorite candy, pastry, or other sugary treats. Before you know it, the item is moving from your hand to your mouth to your stomach. Then you look down and it’s gone.
Certainly, enjoying a treat from time to time isn’t likely to cause much harm. But if you give in to your sweet tooth regularly, taking in more than 100 to 150 calories per day in added sugars, it can be bad for your heart. (1)
1. Dark Chocolate
Research has found that consuming just one dose of 85% dark chocolate helps promote heart health by buffering the reaction of the cardiovascular system during times of acute stress. (2) Other heart-healthy benefits of this sweet include decreased inflammation, reduced stroke and heart arrhythmia risk, improved cholesterol, and better circulation. (3)
Not everyone likes the taste of dark chocolate as it is generally more bitter than other chocolate types. But if you do, select one that has at least a 70% cocoa content—the higher the content 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 that have been dipped in dark chocolate? Feel free to have a few when your urge for something sweet strikes because, not only does dark chocolate offer benefits for your heart, but so too do strawberries.
Some studies have connected strawberries with improved health of the circulatory system in people with higher cholesterol, mainly in 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, as they are just as good on their own.
3. Orange Slices in Yogurt, with Cinnamon
While bitter oranges are good for the health of your intestines and bones, sweet oranges (which include navel oranges, blood oranges, and mandarins) are good for your heart because they help 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 cup of plain yogurt for a snack with even more heart benefits. Yogurt consumption has been linked to greater cardiovascular health, also improving the health of your gastrointestinal and skeletal systems. (7) Sprinkle some cinnamon on top to make it feel like an even greater indulgence.
4. Sweet Cherries
You can also add sweet cherries to your yogurt or eat them alone. This fruit benefits your cardiovascular system by helping to reduce free radicals and proinflammatory markers, limiting the impact of oxidative stress. (8)
What types of cherries are sweet? Look for Bing, Lambert, and Rainier cherries at the grocery store or farmer’s market as these all tend to be on the sweeter side. Sweet cherries also tend to be firmer and bigger, so look for these qualities if the variety isn’t labeled.
Small boxes of raisins have long been promoted as being healthy additions to kids’ lunches. This is, in part, because raisin consumption is associated with higher diet quality and better nutrient intake, both of which correlate with greater heart health. (9)
But there are several more reasons to put them in your lunch as an adult, too. They include improving oral health, reducing appetite, and benefiting gut microbiota. (10) That makes this dried fruit as good for your body as it is for satisfying your sweet tooth.