The delicious and nutritious heart health power trio

You can always count on big corporations to latch onto health trends — and then exploit them beyond all recognition. So you can imagine my amusement when I came across a study touting almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa as effective tools for heart disease prevention.

Of course, I already knew about this benefit. You already knew about it. Anyone who is even remotely health conscious already knew about it.

But the Journal of the American Heart Association recently published a study with this very conclusion. Funded by the Hershey Company and the Almond Board of California, to boot. (Talk about a strange bunch of bedfellows…)

So I think it’s safe to say that the message is set to get a significant boost in coverage. (Though considering the track record of two out of three of the aforementioned parties, I’m not convinced that’ll end up being a good thing for public health.)

Still, however Big Food ultimately twists this information to turn a profit — and rest assured, it will — there’s a gold nugget of nutritional truth in there. Which is why I want to share these results with you before all the corporate spin doctors get their greedy hands on them.

This controlled study examined the effects of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, almonds, and a combination of all three on the lipid profiles of 31 overweight and obese adults with high cholesterol. (That is, as compared to a standard American diet without these components.)

Each different diet period lasted four weeks, with two week breaks in between. And wouldn’t you know? Researchers found that a daily serving of almonds improved cholesterol significantly. But a combo of almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa, specifically, dropped small, dense LDL-cholesterol levels — one of the big red flags for coronary heart disease.

Clearly, almonds and chocolate are a natural pair — not just for your taste buds, but your health, too. Again, we have known this in the nutrition business for years. But now that the food industry is hip to this open secret, I’ll put money on them trying to convince you to eat more than you really need to reap this health benefit.

These companies are shameless — but they’re not stupid. And that’s dangerous.

And let’s be honest. It doesn’t take much to convince overweight and overly hungry Americans to chow down on chocolate and nuts. As it is, the portions in this study — approximately 1/3 cup of almonds, ¼ cup of dark chocolate, and more than two tablespoons of cocoa — are on the indulgent side.

Who knows what size snack the marketing wizards over at Big Food will attempt to sell you as “healthy?”

I’m not one to count calories, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that gorging on Hershey bars is a bad idea. I don’t even consider fruit to be a health food, so you’re not going to catch me conceding any ground here.

Food doesn’t have to be our enemy. We make it so by piling poor judgment on top of poor judgment. These findings don’t change the fact that you need to choose what you eat wisely. If anything, they underscore it.

Hershey funded this study for a reason — to trick you into thinking their chocolate bars are healthy. Needless to say, they’re not. And none of the sugar-packed confections the average person classifies as “chocolate” are good for you either.

But find some sugar-free, flavanol-rich, 90 to100 percent pure cacao bars or cocoa powder and you’re in business. Yes, it’s very bitter. But add some almond milk or melt the bars down and add a little stevia, and the resulting concoction is pretty awesome. And thoroughly satisfying, too.

Throw a handful of almonds on the side, and you’ve got yourself an A-List approved snack, no “help” from Hershey required.


P.S. – Speaking of “A-List approved,” learn some more ways to make healthier choices in 2018. Add a little know-how to your New Year’s resolution to make sure it sticks all year long — and beyond.

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