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Possible Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

With growing research indicating that dark chocolate has cardiovascular and other health benefits that box of candy you gave your loved one as a present may be more than just a taste treat. Scientists studying the health benefits of chocolate have found that antioxidant chemicals in the cocoa plant (from which fruits chocolate is made) help improve blood flow, thus reducing the likelihood that blood clots will form and cause strokes or heart attacks. Several reports have suggested that these antioxidant chemicals called flavonols (a class of flavonoids) in dark chocolate may improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, even reduce insulin resistance and help control blood sugar. Smaller studies on flavonols have found that they may also help ease diarrhea symptoms and improve the appearance of your skin.

Dark or Milk Chocolate?

According to researchers, flavonols are most potent and, therefore, most beneficial in dark chocolates. Look for lower-sugar chocolate bars, boasting a high cocoa content of 85+ percent which can now be found in all supermarkets and discount stores.

When manufacturers add milk and fat to chocolate to give milk chocolate that creamy, rich flavor, cocoa flavonol levels are significantly reduced through dilution. So, if you prefer the creamy taste, you must sacrifice the potential health benefits.

It is not clear from the research how much dark chocolate you should consume to garner the health benefits of flavonols. Studies conducted so far have given participants flavanol-rich cocoa beverages as much as three to four times a day. However, others have recommended as little as two tablespoons a day of dark chocolate.

Other flavonol-rich foods include red wine, tea (especially green tea) and many fruits (e.g. strawberries, grapes and grapefruit) and vegetables (e.g. cruciferous vegetables). Eating a balanced diet rich in these foods year-round may improve your overall health.

Healthy Sweet Tip for You

Here is a healthy sweet treat that packs a triple dose of flavanols. Get a basket of fresh, juicy strawberries and a bar of dark chocolate. Melt the chocolate in a fondue pot or on medium heat in a sauce pan. Use skewers to dip the strawberries in the chocolate and place them on a glass plate to cool. Serve chilled or warm with a glass of red wine. The strawberries, red wine and, of course, dark chocolate are all packed with cardiovascular-enhancing flavanols. Hope you will enjoy the taste.