Consuming almonds and dark chocolate can help lower cholesterol in just one month, based on a recent study of 31 overweight and obese adults with high cholesterol.
Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, this study tested the effects of various diets on cardiovascular risk. The diets included daily consumption of almonds, dark chocolate and cocoa, all of which have been shown to have a positive impact on heart health. The study included overweight and obese patients with high cholesterol, who are at particularly high risk for heart disease and life-threatening heart events.
To test the effects of almonds and chocolate on heart health, researchers randomly assigned participants to four unique diets for four weeks each. All food items were provided for participants and there was a two-week washout period in between each diet to help separate the effects.
The first diet was considered a control diet and included items like milk, cheese, white bread, tuna fish and meatloaf. It was modeled after what researchers call the “average American diet” and contained anywhere from 1,800-3,300 calories a day.
The second diet was similar but substituted certain items with 42.5 grams a day of almonds, while the third substituted items for 18 grams a day of cocoa powder and 43 grams of dark chocolate. The fourth diet included all three heart-healthy items to test their combined effects on heart health.
After measuring factors like blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol before and after each diet, researchers found a significant link between diet and cholesterol. Compared with the control diet, the almond diet was associated with 4% lower total cholesterol and 7% lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol. The diet that combined almonds and dark chocolate was also associated with significantly lower cholesterol levels than the control diet.
It’s important to note that diets had no significant impact on other markers of heart health, such as blood sugar and blood pressure. However, each diet only lasted four weeks so did not capture the long-term effects of almonds and dark chocolate on heart health.
According to authors, findings confirm that almonds with and without dark chocolate improve cholesterol in overweight and obese adults. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, and lowering cholesterol levels can have significant benefits for heart health.
However, authors stress the importance of incorporating heart-healthy foods without increasing calorie intake. In this study, almonds and dark chocolate replaced unhealthier items like butter and cheese. As authors explain, it’s important to be mindful of overall calorie intake, especially for patients trying to lose weight and improve their overall diet.