Antioxidants in Cocoa Powder and Chocolate
Here again, myth busted. No antioxidants in cocoa powder, no antioxidants in chocolate. So if they aren’t antioxidants, how do cocoa flavanols work?
Here’s the takeaway from the research: cocoa flavanols should be part of your daily routine because they do work to increase your body’s natural pool of nitric oxide—a small but powerful molecule critical to the health of your blood vessels.
Nitric oxide isn’t as commonly known as an antioxidant, but it’s worth a closer look thanks to the vital role it plays in helping our bodies perform at their very best. In fact, nitric oxide is so important that it’s actually prize-winning. No really—keep reading to find out why!
What is Nitric Oxide, and What Does It Do For Your Body?
The discovery of the cardiovascular impact of nitric oxide, a small but powerful molecule critical to the health of your blood vessels, was so groundbreaking that researchers won the 1998 Nobel Prize for discovering it! By supporting the body’s pool of nitric oxide, cocoa flavanols help support healthy blood vessel function. Healthier blood vessels promote healthier blood flow. And healthy blood flow is a critical part of the overall health of the cardiovascular system.
But the benefits of cocoa flavanols and nitric oxide don’t stop there. There’s solid scientific evidence that, in addition to cardiovascular benefits, they can also improve cognitive (brain) function. That’s because nitric oxide promotes healthier blood vessels, supporting the cardiovascular system so it can deliver essential oxygen and nutrients to every organ, muscle and tissue throughout your body—including your brain—keeping all parts of you nourished and performing at their best.
How Do You Increase Nitric Oxide In Your Body?
Depending on the source you consult, you’re likely to find advice on increasing nitric oxide in your body in many different ways. For example:
Drink beetroot juice. In a move that would delight Dwight Schrute on The Office (beets, bears, Battlestar Galactica anyone?), beets are rich in nitrates, which your body changes into nitric oxide. Some studies have shown that beetroot juice may impact the performance of endurance in athletes. But before you stock up, know that it can take up to two cups of beet juice daily to see positive effects, that cooking beets drains much of their nitrates (so you have to stick with juice), and it might add a tint to your toilet—yikes!
Eat more spinach (and other leafy-green veggies). Packing in foods that are high in nitrates (like spinach) may increase your levels of nitric oxide. But keep in mind it’s hard to know exactly how many nitrates you’re getting from your spinach salad since studies have shown nitrate content is dependent on the agricultural production system.
Take a supplement. There are supplements on the market that may increase nitric oxide in your body, but it’s key to have the 411 before you buy: it’s important to understand how the type of supplement you’re buying increases nitric oxide (for example, with cocoa flavanols), how the supplement is measured, and how much you’ll need to consume to get any health benefits.