Heart-Healthy Tips for a Hoppy Easter

Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate—in moderation—can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, according to medical personnel at Sharp Coronado.

So, if you’re going to indulge this Easter, opt for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

“Milk chocolate is more processed, which means all the components that are healthy for us have been removed. Dark chocolate is less processed,” said Stephanie Nelson, a registered dietician at Sharp Coronado.

Nelson, who manages patient food and nutrition services, says cocoa is rich in antioxidants.

“Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, which can cause cancer,” she said.

Dark chocolate contains flavanol. This component, also found in red wine and green tea, can help lower cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“They are still doing research, but it may also improve hypertension (high blood pressure),” which can lead to a heart attack or stroke, Nelson added.

But go easy. More is not necessarily better.

“It is chocolate, so it’s not like we need to be eating it in mass quantities,” the dietician explained. “Keep it in check. Don’t eat the whole Easter basket in one day.”

The antioxidants found in dark chocolate are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

She recommends eating anywhere from half an ounce to an ounce a day. A medium-sized chocolate bar is about 1.5 ounces.

The key to maximizing the benefits of this delicious treat is moderation and repetition, according to Nelson.

“Much like red wine, it’s helpful to have a little bit each day, rather than mass quantities at one time.”