Yep, it's true. Eating dark chocolate can increase circulation and lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate has even been studied during pregnancy, showing that expecting women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy had a lower incidence of high blood pressure, which equates to a healthier pregnancy and fetal outcome.
(Note: 1 oz a day is great! One chocolate bar a day may not be. Women in their third trimester, check with your doctor before consuming dark chocolate daily.)
What is in dark chocolate that helps to lower blood pressure? Polyphenols are naturally found plant nutrients in cacao (same healthy nutrients found in red wine and green tea) that offer many health benefits, and one of them is to help with blood pressure. Polyphenols are the main source of antioxidants in cacao. Crazy fact: there are more than 8000 phenolic compounds in cacao! The class of polyphenols that are responsible for increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure are catechins and epicatechins. These substances decrease blood pressure by helping to produce nitric oxide within our body. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to relax and dilate, and oxygen flow to increase. It also helps to decrease clotting and reduce inflammation.
It's important to choose dark chocolate because the milk in milk chocolate binds with the polyphenols making them unavailable for their healing affects. It's also important to choose organic as organic cacao has been shown to be higher in polyphenols than non-organic varieties. Sorry guys, that doesn't mean more chocolate is better. It's still recommended that you stick with 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. But enjoy that little bit of dark every day!