Heart health is a huge issue in the UK, with cardiovascular disease accounting for around a quarter of all deaths every year. This includes conditions and diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart failure and strokes.

And according to data from the British Heart Foundation, more than seven million people in the UK are currently living with cardiovascular disease. Worryingly these numbers are expected to rise.

As is the case with many health conditions, diet plays a huge role in your heart health. Foods high in saturated fat in particular are known to significantly increase your risk of a cardiovascular problem.

Other foods are also known to lower the risk, with health bodies often recommending sticking to a balanced diet rich in healthy fats, fruits and vegetables.

However, there is another food that may seem surprising that could help improve your heart health. Nutrition and dieting expert Dr Michael Mosely recommended adding a little bit of dark chocolate daily for this very reason.

On an episode of his BBC podcast Just One Thing, Dr Mosley revealed that scientific research shows a small amount of dark chocolate every day could improve your cognition, memory and cardio-metabolic health.

This is especially beneficial if you replace other sugary foods in your regular diet with two squares of dark chocolate daily, he said.

It could have benefits for your heart, your metabolism, and your brain – from reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your levels of low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol), to boosting blood flow to the brain.

He explained: “Studies have revealed that the key element in cocoa seems to be a class of chemical compounds called flavonoids.

“They are present in many plant foods such as strawberries, tea, blueberries, apples and onions.

“But the bitter seeds of the cacao tree are one of the richest known sources of flavonoids.

“And luckily, you don’t have to eat those bitter seeds to get the benefits. Just chocolate with high cocoa content.

“White chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa particles, so eating that won’t do anything. Milk chocolate does have some but not enough.

“But dark chocolate is full of the stuff and there are plenty of reasons for dark chocolate to be the one you choose.”

But he warned against overindulging. He added: “In large amounts, chocolate can raise blood sugars and could lead to weight gain, both of which can increase – rather than reduce – your risk of cardiovascular disease, so it can negate the positive effects.

“The best thing to do is swap out your usual sugary snack for something much darker like this, so you get the benefits of both cutting down on fat and sugar, and the benefits of the flavonoid compounds – the double whammy effect.”

In line with National Chocolate Cake day on January 27 he also shared his wife’s (Dr Clare Bailey) chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe to allow people to enjoy a healthy chocolate treat.

“The trick when it comes to reducing sugar spikes is to eat treats and desserts at the end of a savoury meal, rather than on an empty stomach,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

This recipe includes a mashed banana, two tablespoons of peanut butter and two tablespoons of cocoa powder.

It can be found in Dr Bailey’s book The Fast 800 Keto Recipe Book.

Repeated spikes in your blood sugar can cause heart problems, kidney problems, problems with eyesight, and nerve issues like neuropathy, where you lose feeling in fingers and toes.

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