It’s always good to get health news that supports your vices – and this is a really good one. While you are sipping a quality red wine that may help the health of your heart, you can also know that substantial research says that it’s OK – even good, to nibble on a piece of dark chocolate as well.

Ten studies on cocoa and tea consumption have concluded that a diet with lots of cocoa in it might lower blood pressure as much as medications would. Quite literally, the participants in the study who drank and ate cocoa had lower blood pressure by the end of the studies. The effect was even greater on younger participants.

Quality chocolate is quite nutritious. It is not ‘empty calories’ like other sweets that contain almost 100 per cent sugar. Chocolate has long been used as a high-energy food for mountain climbers who need to sustain themselves against the cold and keep their energy levels up. It contains large amounts of potassium, copper, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, folic acid, sodium, zinc and iron. Chocolate does not always need to be made with sugar; diabetics can eat small amounts of dark, unsweetened chocolate. High amounts of magnesium make chocolate an excellent bedtime drink, is of the contributing nutrients to its blood pressure lowering qualities.  Adding milk to cocoa makes it even more nutritious and perfect for a good night’s sleep.

For high blood pressure sufferers, all the other dietary and lifestyle guidelines still apply – eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise at least three times a week and find a suitable way of dealing with stress. But now you can nibble on a little chocolate and see it as health food.

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