Dark Chocolate and Almonds – Heart-Friendly Snacks
In recent years the benefits of almonds and dark chocolate have become well known. Almonds are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats; dark chocolate is a source of healthy polyphenol compounds. And both have the ability to help people feel satiated in small amounts.
This clinical trial included individuals who struggled with their weight, which also put them at risk for cardiovascular issues.
During the four-week trials, participants consumed either their average diet with no additional “treatment foods” (almonds or dark chocolate), a controlled amount of almonds per day, a controlled amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder each day, or specified level all three.
In just one month, those in the almond group saw the most significant overall changes in their cholesterol levels, while those in the chocolate and almond group saw reductions in specific (small, dense LDL) cholesterol.
What’s interesting about this study is that even as added snacks – as long as they aren’t overdone – can help people very quickly and quite significantly lower their risk of heart disease.
Lee Y, Berryman CE, West SG, et al. Effects of Dark Chocolate and Almonds on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled-Feeding Trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(12):e005162. Published 2017 Nov 29. doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.005162
Background: Consumption of almonds or dark chocolate and cocoa has favorable effects on markers of coronary heart disease; however, the combined effects have not been evaluated in a well-controlled feeding study. The aim of this study was to examine the individual and combined effects of consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa and almonds on markers of coronary heart disease risk.
Methods and results: A randomized controlled, 4-period, crossover, feeding trial was conducted in overweight and obese individuals aged 30 to 70 years. Forty-eight participants were randomized, and 31 participants completed the entire study. Each diet period was 4 weeks long, followed by a 2-week compliance break. Participants consumed each of 4 isocaloric, weight maintenance diets: (1) no treatment foods (average American diet), (2) 42.5 g/d of almonds (almond diet [ALD]), (3) 18 g/d of cocoa powder and 43 g/d of dark chocolate (chocolate diet [CHOC]), or (4) all 3 foods (CHOC+ALD). Compared with the average American diet, total cholesterol, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol after the ALD were lower by 4%, 5%, and 7%, respectively (P<0.05). The CHOC+ALD decreased apolipoprotein B by 5% compared with the average American diet. For low-density lipoprotein subclasses, compared with the average American diet, the ALD showed a greater reduction in large buoyant low-density lipoprotein particles (-5.7±2.3 versus -0.3±2.3 mg/dL; P=0.04), whereas the CHOC+ALD had a greater decrease in small dense low-density lipoprotein particles (-12.0±2.8 versus -5.3±2.8 mg/dL; P=0.04). There were no significant differences between diets for measures of vascular health and oxidative stress.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that consumption of almonds alone or combined with dark chocolate under controlled-feeding conditions improves lipid profiles. Incorporating almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa into a typical American diet without exceeding energy needs may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.