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If you happen to be a “chocoholic,” there is some good news for you: some chocolate is not only not as unhealthy as previously thought, but many doctors now actually encourage the public to consume it. One particular type of chocolate can be beneficial to your gums, eyes, heart, arteries and even your entire immune system. It can also help lower cholesterol levels and balance both blood pressure and blood sugar. However, before you run out to buy candy bars in bulk, know that not just any kind of chocolate will provide such benefits.

Dark chocolate, created from natural cocoa beans, has been recommended for consumption even up to three times a day. This is because the cocoa bean is the food with the highest levels of antioxidants ever, which protect the body from oxidative stress involved with aging. Other foods, such as red wine, tea, and select few fruits and vegetables also offer similar health benefits, but cocoa still tops them all when it comes to the sheer number of antioxidants. These antioxidant compounds are called flavanols, which presumably supply dark chocolate its health benefits.

Ironically, flavanols actually taste very bitter, so many companies that make candy bars take out most of the flavanols to make the chocolate taste better. This obviously strips the chocolate of most of its health benefits. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing which candy bar is healthiest, as companies do not indicate how many flavanols are left in the final product. This is why buying dark chocolate candy bars simply to get the health effects may not work.

Also keep in mind that milk chocolate does not render the same health perks. The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids containing flavanols there are, meaning that milk chocolate offers fewer health benefits than dark chocolate. Clearly this indicates that white chocolate offers even fewer; in fact, it contains no flavonoids.

The best way to take advantage of the health benefits offered in dark chocolate is to buy the darkest chocolate available with the least amount of added ingredients, perhaps from a health food store. Another option is to buy one of the recent products in which dark chocolate is infused with the açaí berry, an antioxidant that helps reduce heart and vascular disease. Dark chocolate and açaí go together well because both have a magnitude of antioxidants, and açaí helps flavanol-filled dark chocolate taste good.

But even if you find such a product, realize that it is not a wonder drug. Despite its health benefits, dark chocolate still contains calories and some fat, and an excess of either is unhealthy. Even too many dark chocolate and açaí products can be harmful. This is why doctors recommend some dark chocolate, red wine, or other treats that have some health benefits daily, but do advise patients to limit their intake, as too much of anything can be detrimental.


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