Nature’s most surprising statin substitute yet

I’m a stickler for good nutrition — I won’t pretend otherwise. But let it be known, I’m not a killjoy. Because like I’ve told you a thousand times, “dieting” can be delicious. And while you can’t eat everything you want, there’s no shortage of indulgences still left on the table once you toss the donuts and chips by the wayside.

Speaking of delicious, let’s take chocolate, for one. And olive oil, for another. Guess what? It’s time to start eating more of them. Preferably at the same time. Here’s why…

A recent small study showed that if you eat a small bar of dark chocolate made with olive oil daily, it might boost your endothelial function. (The endothelium is the lining of your arteries… in other words, kind of important stuff.)

This study looked at a group of Italian adults, with an average age of 51 and at least three cardiovascular risk factors (like a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or active smoking). They ate 40 grams (that’s just under 1.5 ounces) of olive-oil-enriched dark chocolate every day for a month — after which researchers made some striking observations.

There were no changes in blood sugar, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, or triglycerides), or blood pressure among participants. So at first glance, dark chocolate is — at the very least — a good neutral choice.

But a closer look revealed one key change. Daily consumption of olive-oil-enriched dark chocolate appeared to deliver a significant boost to endothelial progenitor cells. (These cells play a significant role in vascular repair — and not surprisingly, they tend to be lower in people with higher heart risk.)

Of course, the researchers were quick to point out that statin drugs have this same effect. But last time I checked, chocolate — provided you consume the right kind — didn’t have a mile-long list of harmful side effects. And you certainly can’t say the same thing about statins.

Not that I expect the mainstream to start pushing cocoa in place of Crestor anytime soon. Despite the fact that tons of cohort and epidemiological studies support the serious power of regular chocolate consumption (like the research that made headlines a few years back on the famously heart-disease-free Kuna Indians).

I bring up these studies all the time in my lectures and television appearances — and I’ve mentioned it more than once both here and in my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. Because it really is important information. (Not a subscriber yet? Don’t miss out on all the latest health info — click here.)

After all, I know I’m not going to convince everyone to eat kale. But I’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t want to eat chocolate every day.

And considering the fact that a small piece of dark chocolate delivers as much disease-fighting polyphenol content as two glasses of red wine or a cup of green tea, it will always be one of my top nutritional recommendations.

But before you go raiding the Halloween candy bowl, hold up.

The magic word here is polyphenols — and you’re only going to find a hefty dose of these active antioxidant compounds in a pure, high-quality cocoa product. So it goes without saying that you won’t be doing yourself any favors by inhaling a bag of fun-size Hershey bars tonight.

This study used 70 percent cocoa. Not bad, but I advise my patients to stick with products containing 85 percent or greater. And for the best longevity benefits chocolate has to offer, go with 100 percent cocoa powder.

Is it going to taste good? Not by itself — I’m not going to lie. But that’s easy to fix.

Try mixing it with unsweetened almond or coconut milk, along with a little bit of stevia (just enough to cut the bitterness). The resulting concoction is one of my favorite treats. If you have a hankering to bake with cocoa, extra virgin olive oil (or macadamia nut oil — also great for endothelial function) makes a tasty replacement for other unhealthy oils or butter in most recipes.