Cocoa: Cardiovascular cure and sweet treat

There’s nothing quite like a steaming mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top, and it may even be the best guilty pleasure of the winter season…

But what if I told you hot cocoa was less of a guilty pleasure and more of a health-boosting heart tonic? It sounds too good to be true, but it is…

A review of the latest research on cocoa consumption and heart health shows that cocoa has a positive effect on several biomarkers used to gauge heart health.

Researchers from Brown University reviewed 19 randomized controlled trials, and here’s what they found out about cocoa:

  • It improves insulin resistance.
  • It balances blood sugar.
  • It lowers bodily inflammation.
  • It lowers elevated triglyceride levels.
  • It increases good cholesterol (HDL).

Most of these biomarkers are direct indicators of your cardiovascular disease risk… not to mention your diabetes risk.

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Why is cocoa so good for your cardiovascular and metabolic health?

Well, it’s all due to the health-boosting power of flavanols. Flavanols are plant compounds that have an antioxidant effect on your body. They fight free radicals and protect your DNA from damage. Study participants who saw the most improvement in their cardiovascular and metabolic biomarkers typically got between 200 and 600 milligrams of flavanols per day from cocoa.

Of course, there is one caveat: Participants in the studies were primarily getting their cocoa from dark chocolate. Some were using powder-based cocoa beverages. But the question is… will these health benefits apply to your steaming mug of hot cocoa too?

The answer is yes… as long as you drink the right kind of hot cocoa. You won’t experience any health benefits if you drink packets of Swiss Miss or other processed, packaged hot cocoas. These are loaded with sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated oil and very little actual cocoa.

If you make your hot cocoa at home using high-quality ingredients, however, not only will it taste better, but you’ll definitely notice a positive impact on your health.

If you really want to ramp up your flavanol intake, for example, you can make your hot cocoa with cacao powder. It has even more of these antioxidants than cocoa powder. Give this healthy hot cacao recipe a try. Or you could also buy some organic dark hot chocolate mix. It’s healthier than those Swiss Miss packets, but it still contains quite a bit of sugar. So sip on it sparingly.

And about that dollop of whipped cream… consider making your own from heavy cream. Turns out those saturated fats are also more helpful than harmful for your heart.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!

  1. Lin, et al. “Cocoa Flavanol Intake and Biomarkers for Cardiometabolic Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of Nutrition, 2016.
  2. “Some Facts About Flavanols.” University of Califonia-Davis Department of Nutrition. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  3. “How To Make A Healthy Hot Chocolate.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and