Dark Chocolate and Your Heart

By Ashley Danielson, RDN, LD

February is American Heart Month, and we can all use a nudge to give our heart health a little extra focus. There are so many different lifestyle factors that affect our blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and more.  As a Registered dietitian, heart health is a common topic with me clients, and unfortunately people need more education on how nutrition plays multiple roles within the heart.

Of course, some small steps that you can make include increasing exercise to get your heart pumping a little extra – this can include yoga, cardio, or strength training. When it comes to nutrition, we want to focus more on healthy fats like salmon or avocado, and fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and even whole grains. One food that doesn’t get brought up a lot in the heart healthy discussion is chocolate. Chocolate is candy, considered an indulgence, and doesn’t seem like the best option when trying to eat healthier.

However, dark chocolate can be part of a heart-healthy diet, especially when we can find dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa, with additional fiber and minerals like zinc and selenium. Dark chocolate is well known for containing antioxidants, which help protect our body against free radicals and creates a shield with our immune system. The antioxidants in dark chocolate may also help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your LDL (bad cholesterol). Your cholesterol levels are highly tied to the health of your heart – maybe incorporating a small square after dinner isn’t a bad thing after all!

As a dietitian who works in the retail world, I get to sample products often! I love doing this as it helps me find new favorites, and also supports the recommendations that I can give to my clients. Read on for some of my favorite dark chocolate bars and treats.

Hu Chocolate

The founders of Hu Chocolate are brilliant for creating delicious options that take out all of the junk, and “help people get back to human”. They started off with chocolate bars, which is why I love to talk about them in the first place! Their simple dark chocolate bar just has three ingredients: organic cacao, organic unrefined coconut sugar, and organic cocoa butter. Many sweets and chocolate options in general these days typically contain sugar alcohols and erythritol, but Hu just keeps it simple. Plus, they have so many other great options up their sleeve.

Theo

Theo Chocolate really bases their company off of sustainability, organic ingredients and fair-trade products. Their 70% dark chocolate bar also has three ingredients; the cocoa is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the sugar is sourced from Brazil. Theo has a lot of chocolate bars to offer, but also cookie bites and fun gift baskets to send out.

Endangered Species

Endangered Species started with two people who were really just looking for better sourced chocolate with ingredients that focus on health. They have grown into a larger company that continues focus on that aspect and creating chocolate without random additives or weird sweeteners. Their chocolate really covers it all for anyone – from loads of flavors of chocolate bars (I’m adding Oat Milk Mixed Berries + Dark Chocolate to my next order), to baking chips, to single serves, and rounding out with variety packs, there are so many options.

Alter Eco

Alter Eco is a completely organic company that is again focusing on putting just the real ingredients in their products, which I appreciate. They use packaging that reduces waste and they remain very eco-friendly for their customers. Just like some other chocolate brands, they have expanded their selections from their line of basic chocolate bars. Since I personally go for the dark chocolate, you can choose from a 90% Cacao bar, or maybe even 100%! They also tailor to those who prefer more of the milk chocolate taste, and some of their new products include granola and truffle thins.

Free2b

Allergy-friendly friends, don’t fear! Free2b has you covered with their amazing chocolate! Their cute little sunflower cups baking wafers are free from 12 major allergens: peanuts, dairy, tree nuts, gluten, coconut, egg, sesame, soy, mustard, corn, fish and shellfish. I love their story and how they were challenged to help a family with allergies enjoy some sweets. Now, they can help so many families that may have allergies in their home.

You can find all these chocolate options in your local grocery store, or you can simply click on each one to view their website to order directly from them. This month, try a little extra chocolate to help your heart and find a new favorite!

 

The purpose of this blog is solely for guidance and enjoyment. The information included on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider before altering your diet, changing your exercise regimen, starting any new treatment or making changes to existing treatment.

 

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About Kirk: 

Kirk was working 80-hour weeks and wearing his shoulders as earrings when he found yoga in 2005. Forever the competitive athlete, he loved the physicality of yoga. When the spiritual and philosophical side of yoga were exposed to him, Kirk was hooked. Yoga provided him with what other activities couldn’t -- the ability to foster the benefits of practice both on and off of the mat. Yoga was something that Kirk could bring into all aspects of his life. 

Kirk knows that yoga can be intimidating, so he crafts a class that is playful and inviting, while still being challenging and safe. His creatively planned classes build strength and flexibility in your body and mind while establishing clarity, giving you more confidence to overcome obstacles in your life, and keeping you injury-free. His classes are themed with a message that is relatable and will inspire you to take it with you off your mat. Kirk has been teaching yoga since 2008 and lead his first teacher training in 2012. Where Kirk truly shines is in coaching, developing and bringing out the best in others.  

Kirk enjoys traveling (40+ countries to date!), snowboarding, and cherishes time with his wife and two daughters. 

About Christen: 

Christen Bakken’s yoga journey began in 1998 in a Bikram studio that provided a safe and secure place to practice. She saw the yoga mat as a place to remember her purpose and a place to play. As she continued her studies and began her journey to teaching in 2006, Christen infused yoga classes with devotion and the yoga mat became a place of personal transformation and healing. Her classes are filled with laughter, song, sweat, and usually heart openers. In 2013, Christen began training yoga teachers. This is the place where she finds the most joy - in community with folks looking to grow and be of greater service in their homes, on their mats, and in the world. Over the years, she has led trainings in Denver, the Midwest, Florida, and now abroad. She has trained in continuing education modules, 200-hour, 300-hour, and 500-hour programs. Beyond the mat, Christen is a passionate adventure seeker - she loves to bike, snowboard, and spend time with her husband and pups. She sees each day as a blessing and hopes to remind all who interact with her of this truth.  

Two Light Studio Parking Information

We validate parking for THREE garages in the area!

  • Two Light garage located directly north of the studio. Please bring your ticket inside for validation.

  • Three Light garage at Main and Truman. Garage entrance on Truman. Please bring your ticket inside for a validation sticker.

  • Power & Light garage at 13th and Grand. Please ask for a parking pass at the studio front desk. (Hot tip: the Power & Light garage has a ton of space! But be sure to give yourself a little extra time to walk to the studio.)

If you find that you are running a couple minutes late due to parking, please call the studio to let the instructor know to wait for you before locking the doors.

Blackstone Studio Parking

  • We have partnered with our friends at Greenslate to provide 1 hour and 15 minute validated parking for Power Life students in the lot at 36th and Harney (just south of the Cottonwood Hotel). Read below to learn how to take advantage of this perk:

    • Step 1: Scan the QR code located in the lot.

    • Step 2: Select your destination (i.e. “yoga studio”).

    • Step 3: Ask for the validation code at the Blackstone studio front desk and enter it on your phone.

    • Step 4: You are all set! Have fun at class!

    Please note:

    • The validation provided by Power Life and Greenslate is for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Need to add additional time to your parking space? You can do that conveniently from your phone!

    • This option is valid once per day per license plate.

    • Please do NOT park in the Crescent Moon lot − you will be towed!

East Village Studio Amenities

  • There is a paved lot and gravel lot on the West side of the building.

  • Meters on Court and 4th (by Peace Tree) for $0.25/hour, 9am-9pm Mon. – Sat. 12-hour max

  • Meters on 4th (to the North) for $1.25/hour. Mon – Sat. 4-hour max.

  • All meters are free on Sundays and major holidays.

Dark Chocolate and Your Heart Info