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Chocolate: Healthy?
Photo: Valeriya Potapova
It sometimes seems like everything that tastes good is bad for you. Well, here is some good news. Chocolate not only tastes good, but according to a recent German study, eating it may be good for your health. Seriously.

A paper published online on March 31, 2010 in the European Heart Journal* examined the effects of consuming chocolate on health. The study followed 19,357 healthy adult participants in Germany aged 35–65 years over a minimum of eight years. It found that those within the study who ate the most chocolate had lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those that ate the least.

The doctors that conducted the study believe that flavanols present in cocoa – an ingredient of chocolate – may be responsible. More study is needed at this point to determine if flavanols are really responsible. Regardless of what causes the effect, a daily dose of chocolate – preferably dark chocolate, because it contains more cocoa – lowers blood pressure, improving heart health. 

Small Dose

Now for the bad news. This is not a license to pig-out on chocolate. Like most miracle medicines, it does not take a large dose to get the desired effect, and too much is bad for you. It seems that 7.5 grams – about 1/4 of an ounce – of chocolate daily is all that is needed for chocolate to work its magic.

Doubling, tripling or increasing your daily chocolate consumption beyond that does not increase its beneficial effects on your blood pressure. And – of course – consuming too much chocolate can cause you to pack on pounds, which will raise your blood pressure and stress your heart.

As long as you keep things within reason, though, you can indulge your chocolate cravings without feeling guilty. Have a piece of quality dark chocolate with your morning beverage break, or a little chocolate after a meal as a treat. It will do your heart good.

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By Mark Lardas. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

* abstract accessible on-line at http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/04/02/eurheartj.ehq068.abstract

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