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Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties

By Daniel DeNoon

Dark chocolate -- not white chocolate -- lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
But that's no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure -- if you've reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate


Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."

Translation: Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate" as you nibble.



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Quotes from Cleveland Clinic Heart Center


It is not secret that fruits, vegetables and grains convey health benefits - we've been told that for years. But did you know that chocolate could result in health benefits, more specifically heart-health benefits?

The Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled
It is not secret that fruits, vegetables and grains convey health benefits - we've been told that for years. But did you know that chocolate could result in health benefits, more specifically heart-health benefits?


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Forms of Chocolate

Before you grab a chocolate candy bar or slice of chocolate cake, let's look at what forms of chocolate would be ideal over others:

When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally pungent taste. Flavonoids (polyphenols) provide this pungent taste. The more chocolate is processed (such as fermentation, alkalizing, roasting), the more flavonoids are lost.

To date, dark chocolate appears to retain the highest level of flavonoids. So your best bet is to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.

Some chocolate manufacturers are studying ways to retain the highest level of flavonoids while still providing acceptable taste. Stay tuned for more information in this area.

What about all of the fat in chocolate?

You may be surprised to find out that chocolate isn't as bad as once perceived. The fat in chocolate, from cocoa butter, is comprised of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. Saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL-cholesterol and risk for heart disease.

Research indicates that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering LDL-cholesterol levels. Palmitic acid on the other hand, does affect cholesterol levels but only comprises one-third of the fat calories in chocolate.

This great news does not give us a license to consume as much dark chocolate as we'd like.

First, be cautious as to the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. What wreaks havoc on most chocolate products is the additional fat and calories added from other ingredients.

Second, there is currently no established serving of chocolate to reap the touted cardiovascular benefits. However, what we do know is you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in awhile.
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