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Chocolate – A Healthy Indulgence

     Could the rumors be true??  Is chocolate actually healthy for you??  Yes, the truth is chocolate has a lot of health benefits.  Hold on though, don’t run out and grab that candy bar before you finish reading.  Chocolate is a very healthy food, but there are certain things we must consider when choosing the type and amount of chocolate we eat.

     The chocolate bean comes from plants, and it contains many of the health benefits of dark colored vegetables.  These include flavonoids which act as antioxidants.  Dark chocolate is full of these health- promoting antioxidants (nearly 8x the number found in strawberries).

     The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to be very beneficial for the heart.  So, eat dark chocolate to your heart’s content.  Well maybe not, with chocolate a little goes a long way.  A small amount of dark chocolate everyday can keep your heart and cardiovascular system running strong.  Studies have shown eating a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can lower blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent.

     Dark chocolate is not only good for your heart is also stimulates endorphin production, those feel good substances in our body.  It contains serotonin, which helps to lift your mood.  Lets not forget most importantly, it tastes really good!

     With all the health benefits of chocolate, does this mean we should eat a pound a day?  Unfortunately my chocoholic friends, with whom I count myself, the answer is no.  Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. The good news is the fat in chocolate is 1/3 oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil.  Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits.

     Like all foods, chocolate should be consumed while in a state that you can actually enjoy and appreciate it.  Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite.  So take the time to let your taste buds enjoy each one.  Don’t eat your chocolate while driving or sitting in front of the television.  Take some time out of your busy schedule and enjoy a little indulgence, but hold the milk.  Research shows drinking milk with chocolate prevents the antioxidants from being absorbed and used by your body.

     Choosing the type of chocolate is just as important as taking the time to enjoy it.  Dark chocolate (65% or higher cocoa content) has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate.  So, steer clear of milk and white chocolate, as they have none of the health benefits of dark chocolate.  You should look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel or other natural flavorings. Avoid anything with caramel, nougat, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats), artificial ingredients or fillings. These fillings are just added sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate.

     Like anything in life, moderation is key.  Indulge in a little dark chocolate now and then and know you are benefiting your taste buds, your heart and your mind.

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