The Surprising Drink That Can Protect Your Heart, New Study Says

Drinking this within 90 minutes of a stressful event can help keep your heart healthy.

Most of us probably think of salads as part of a healthy diet, while regarding sugary snacks as something to be enjoyed in moderation because they're bad for our body. If you've got a sweet tooth, take note: A recent study found that there's one delicious drink that could actually help protect your heart. Read on to find out which drink you should have on-hand for your heart health, and for more on keeping your ticker in top shape, If You Can't Do This Many Push-Ups, Your Heart Is at Risk, Study Says.

Drinking cocoa when you're stressed can help protect your heart.

Hot cocoa

Mental stress can eventually lead to cardiovascular events, such as stroke, heart disease, or thrombosis. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate some of these damaging effects. A March 27 study out of the University of Birmingham found that drinking cocoa could help protect your heart when you're under stress. The study, published in Nutrients, found that blood vessels were able to function better during stress when people were given a cocoa drink with high levels of flavanols as opposed to a drink without flavanols.

"We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes," lead author Catarina Rendeiro, PhD, of the University of Birmingham's School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, said in a statement. And for drinks that could be hurting your heart, If You Drink This Much Coffee a Day, Your Heart's in Danger, Study Finds.

Flavanols are also found in fruits and vegetables.

Red ripe apples and cut apples on the cutting board
marigold-y / Shutterstock

Cocoa isn't the only way to get flavanols into your diet. "Flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress), we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods," the statement says. According to Rendeiro, you can achieve the dosage of flavanols administered in the study by consuming a variety of foods, including "apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, and green tea." But cocoa might be the most delicious option. And to check on your heart health, If You Can't Do This in 90 Seconds, Your Heart Is in Danger, Study Says.

Flavanols have other health benefits.

Bearded man drinking green tea from a mug

Flavanols are good for more than just your heart health. A 2015 study published by Nutrition Reviews found that flavonoids can help lower high blood pressure. Another 2018 study in Medicine concluded that a diet high in flavanols could decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, some flavanols may help stop cancer cells from multiplying, according to a 2011 study from Pharmacological Reviews. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Stress is bad for both your mental and physical health.

Close-up shot of a woman suffering from a headache and rubbing her temples at home

According to the study in Nutrients, "stress is highly prevalent in today's society and has been linked with both psychological and physical health. Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure (BP) in healthy adults and also results in temporary impairments in the function of arteries even after the episode of stress has ceased." Even single episodes of stress have been shown to increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events, so consider adding a cup of hot cocoa to your diet to protect your heart. And for more risks to your heart, If You Have This Issue With Your Eyes, Your Heart Disease Risk Is High.

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