Heart Healthy Flavanols from Cocoa and Tea
By: Kent Bradley, M.D., M.B.A, M.P.H., Vice President, Medical Affairs Nutrition Education
Though not a term heard on your average trip to the supermarket, flavanols are great for you. Flavanols are active antioxidants with properties that help you fight inflammation, slow cognitive decline and have beneficial effects in cardiovascular and neuropathological diseases.
The good news is that it’s really easy for you to consume this highly beneficial nutrient, since they are found at their highest concentrations in cocoa and tea.
The European Food Safety Authority has concluded that cocoa flavanols help maintain blood vessel elasticity and normal blood flow in healthy adults. To receive this benefit, it recommends that cocoa flavanols be consumed daily from sources like cocoa powder (2.5 g), dark chocolate (10 g), and/or cocoa extract (200 mg). Of course, when choosing ways to consume cocoa flavanols to promote heart health, it is important to maximize this benefit while avoiding excessive fat and sugar found in chocolate products.
Like chocolate, tea (whether green, oolong or black) is rich in flavanols. Studies have shown that drinking green or black tea significantly reduces blood pressure in people with pre- and hypertensive ranges. Furthermore, increased tea consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and cardiac death.
New Uses for Flavanols
Today, a growing number of companies, including Herbalife Nutrition, are looking at new ways to use the flavanols from cocoa and tea to promote heart health by formulating effective and safe amounts from extracts into functional foods, beverages, and supplements. It is also worth noting that emerging research suggests that these flavanols may also have benefits on outcomes beyond heart health, including cognition, diabetes, gut microbiota, and metabolic syndrome.
However, it is important to remember that no one should substitute consumption of tea or cocoa for well-understood heart-health habits of diet and exercise. Someday, though, we will better understand how these substances can be used to maintain good heart health.