The sweet snack that slays high cholesterol

Trying to lower your cholesterol naturally so you can avoid the side effects of statins?

There are a lot of ways to do it. You can exercise, lose weight, avoid trans-fats, eat more soluble fiber… you get the picture.

Those methods are all effective. But they’re not super exciting. You don’t wake up in the morning overflowing with enthusiasm, because you get to eat more soluble fiber. So let me tell you about a cholesterol-lowering habit that is exciting…

Eating dark chocolate almonds.

Okay, so this may not excite everybody (i.e. anyone who hates almonds or dark chocolate or both). But personally, I LOVE dark chocolate and almonds… and I know there are a lot of people out there who share my enthusiasm for this timeless, tasty combo.

So if you’re a fellow nut/chocolate lover and you’re searching for simple, natural ways to lower your cholesterol, read on, because you’re in for a real treat…

Dark chocolate and almonds lower LDL

In a recent study, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that chocolate and almonds can help you slay the LDL “bad” cholesterol that’s putting you at risk for heart disease.

The study included 48 overweight or obese people between the ages of 30 and 70. Researchers put these individuals on four different diets. Each diet lasted four weeks, and there was a two-week break in between diets.

Related: The truth about those triglycerides

The first diet was a standard American diet. The second diet included a daily dose of almonds. The third diet included cocoa powder and dark chocolate. And the fourth diet included almonds, cocoa powder and dark chocolate.

How did study participants do on these diets?

Well, when they added almonds to their diet, they experienced an immediate improvement in their cholesterol. In fact, their LDL “bad” cholesterol went down by seven percent in just four weeks. The chocolate and almonds diet did their cholesterol levels good too. It reduced the amount of apolipoprotein B in their blood by five percent. Apolipoprotein B is a component of the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) that are most likely to enter your arteries. As a result, high levels of apolipoprotein B are associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease.

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Now, researchers found that eating almonds on their own and eating almonds with chocolate each had unique benefits. Eating almonds alone reduced the number of large buoyant LDL particles more than eating chocolate and almonds, which is great. But recent research shows it’s the small, dense LDL particles that contribute more to heart disease. And eating almonds with dark chocolate reduces those more than eating almonds alone.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this study was funded by the Hershey Company and the Almond Board of California. But before you question its findings, you should know that it’s far from the first study to show that dark chocolate and almonds can improve your cholesterol…

A 2017 study found that eating almonds improves your HDL “good” cholesterol. And plenty of other studies have proven that almonds have a beneficial effect on LDL cholesterol. A 2012 study also found that dark chocolate lowers LDL levels and blood sugar. So chocolate and almonds are the real, cholesterol-lowering deal.

Daily habits for lower cholesterol

Ready to start snacking on dark chocolate and almonds daily? Just don’t go overboard. If you increase your calorie intake too much, this cholesterol-lowering trick won’t be as successful.

People in this latest study had one-third cup almonds combined with one-fourth cup dark chocolate daily. And make sure you get the good dark chocolate too…something with 70 percent cocoa content or higher.

Related: Cholesterol is the best brain food

Now, for the less exciting news…

If you’re really serious about lowering your cholesterol without prescription drugs like statins, you’ll have to do some of the less glamorous stuff I mentioned earlier. Get plenty of that soluble fiber. Ditch those dangerous trans-fats. And exercise your little heart out. (Check out Easy Health Options contributor Dr. Mark Wiley’s tips for lowering your cholesterol naturally).

Once you do all that, you can reward yourself with a hefty handful of delicious dark chocolate and almonds. You deserve it.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!

Sources:

  1. Almonds and dark chocolate lower bad cholesterol — MedicalXpress. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  2. Lee, et al. “Effects of Dark Chocolate and Almonds on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled‐Feeding Trial.” — Journal of the American Heart Association, 2017.
  3. Apolipoprotein B-100 — University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  4. Chocolate Might Keep Doctor Away — San Diego State University. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  5. E. Berryman, et al. “Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions.” — Nutrition Reviews. 2011 Apr;69(4):171-85.
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, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.