Need a last minute stocking stuffer? Try some dark chocolate and almonds.
They’ll love the treats. But you can bask in the knowledge you’re doing something terrific for their health too. Because the latest research reveals this deliciously winning combo could help them manage their cholesterol levels, lowering their risk for heart disease.
Now we all know by now (or least folks who read Healthier Talk do) that traditional cholesterol wisdom isn’t it’s all cracked up to be.
Obsessing about LDL “bad” cholesterol numbers, while completely ignoring critical oxidized cholesterol numbers and particle size, is a dangerous mistake.
And trying to eradicate cholesterol completely from your body is a fool’s errand because it performs so many important functions.
But just because we’re finally paying attention to the forest doesn’t mean we should forget about the trees. Since LDL can become oxidized—and small dense LDL particles can be particularly dangerous—when your numbers are too high it’s still wise to look for ways to manage those levels.
Snack your way to healthier cholesterol
The new randomized controlled study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that overweight or obese folks who regularly eat almonds and chocolate tend to have healthier cholesterol levels than their peers who avoid them.
According to the researchers, simply snacking on one-third of a cup of almonds daily for four weeks was associated a healthy seven percent drop in LDL. Adding in some delicious dark chocolate—one quarter cup and 2.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder daily—reduced dangerous small and dense LDL particles, as well.
And although the new study didn’t find that the chocolate alone lowered LDL, in earlier research cocoa powder was associated with a significant drop in LDL as well as a bump in “good” HDL cholesterol.
Of course kicking back on the couch with a stack of candy bars isn’t going to cut it. But a few squares of dark chocolate (the darker the better) and a fistful of almonds make a perfect snack. They’re delicious, satisfying and they could nudge you towards healthier cholesterol levels too.
Dynamic duos benefits don’t end with cholesterol
These hidden in plain sight superfoods have a few other health benefits hidden up their sleeves.
Sleep better with almonds:
Experts say a small handful of nuts could help you sleep better. The protein and good fats drive away overnight hunger pains. And since almonds contain a bit more fiber that other nuts they could help you feel satisfied even longer.
In other words, no need to roll back out of bed for a midnight snack to silence a hungry tummy. Plus the magnesium in almonds, which can help reduce insomnia triggering cortisol, is essential for a good night’s sleep.
Axe anxiety with almonds:
The magnesium in almonds won’t just help you sleep better. It could also help slash daytime anxiety and improve your focus. Experts say low magnesium levels can trigger attention problems, brain fog and anxiety.
An ounce of almonds—around 20 to 24 nuts—will provide you with 80 milligrams of magnesium.
Better blood pressure with dark chocolate:
Plant compounds found in dark chocolate could help improve your blood pressure. Flavonoids can gently widen your blood vessels allowing freer blood flow and lowering BP numbers.
According to one study three ounces of dark chocolate daily could help reduce blood pressure up to 10 points within weeks.
Boost brain power with dark chocolate:
Often called “the red wine nutrient” it turns out dark chocolate contains resveratrol too. And while you may be familiar with resveratrol’s heart benefits, this powerful antioxidant is great for your brain.
In fact, according to one recent study resveratrol appears to stabilize the beta amyloid plaques that experts believe are behind Alzheimer’s disease. Which means those delicious squares of midnight dark chocolate or unsweetened spoons of cocoa powder (sprinkle it over fruit or swirl into yogurt) are just a taste treat, they could also be helping protect your precious memories.
Imagine improving your cholesterol, sleep, blood pressure and memory by snacking on a treat you’d love to eat anyway. I don’t know about you, but this is one prescription I’m more than happy to fill.
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