Conditions like peripheral vascular diseases can affect the blood supply to the body’s peripheral areas such as the arms, legs, and organs found below the stomach. These diseases are caused by narrowing of the blood vessels. This constriction of the blood vessels can be caused by arteriosclerosis which is characterized by the buildup of plaque inside a vessel.

Narrowing of the blood vessels can also occur as a result of emotional stress, smoking, cold temperature, and could be the result of work-related activities such as operating vibrating tools or machines.

When there is constricted flow of blood in the peripheral areas, you will start to feel painful cramping, burning sensation, and fatigue. These symptoms can affect your quality of life especially that they can restrict your movement.

Part of the management of these conditions is making the necessary lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking (if you’re a smoker), incorporating physical activity in your day-to-day activities, learning to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, and learning to eat a well-balanced meal.

There are certain foods that you can add to your diet to improve blood vessel health and function. These include oranges, cayenne pepper, root ginger, sunflower seeds, garlic, Goji berries, and dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate and Blood Vessel Health

Better Sex From Chocolate!? In one study, it was found out that small daily doses of dark chocolate can improve the blood vessel health. The UCSF scientists discovered that subjects who were able to consume small doses of dark chocolate in a 2-week period were able to show improvement in their blood vessel function. It caused their blood vessels to expand or dilate.

The result of the study has something to do with the flavonoid content of dark chocolates. Flavonoids pertain to a diverse group of phytonutrients usually found in fruits and vegetables. They are responsible for the colors of various fruits and vegetables.

For years, scientists are studying the health benefits of these phytonutrients. They found out that flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties and immune system boost function. Eating of foods high in flavonoids are believed to help in the prevention of neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

Flavonoids are shown to decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (also known as the bad cholesterol)  and prevent the aggregation of blood platelets. These actions of flavonoids can help prevent plaque and blood clot formation which are known risk factors for heart disease and peripheral vascular diseases.

These phytonutrients are the largest family of the polyphenolic compounds. Researchers discovered that polyphenols can help reduce oxidative stress and contribute to the body’s formation of nitric acid. This type of acid is shown to contribute to the dilation of blood vessels.

One interesting discovery in the UCSF study is that subjects who were able to consume small doses of dark chocolate were shown to have elevated levels of epicatechin which triggers the release of certain substances that also cause vasodilation.

This improvement in blood vessel health and function can greatly benefit those with circulation problems especially that narrowing in blood vessels can lead to restriction in movement.


Choosing and Eating the Right Kind and Amount

It was only a few years back when scientists found out that dark chocolate, the type of chocolate with a higher content of cocoa butter and less milk, contains more flavonoids than other foods like green and black tea and red wine.

Researchers, however, discovered that there are certain manufacturing practices that can destroy a quarter to a half of the chocolate’s flavonoid content. This is why consumers are advised to look for those with higher cocoa content.

Dark chocolates may be considered as the “healthier” alternative to milk chocolate but this doesn’t mean that those suffering from circulation problems can indulge on this food as much as they want. Moderation is still the key to make the most of the benefits of this food. Overindulgence of dark chocolates can lead to elevation in blood pressure and weight gain.