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When It Comes to Chocolate - Go Dark

14. February 2013

When it Comes to Chocolate – Go Dark

There’s a new Walgreens in my neighborhood. The other day I decided to stop by the shiny, new store and pick up some eye drops. It didn’t take long to realize at Walgreens, love is definitely in the air.

My senses were overwhelmed with wall to wall displays of Valentine’s Day “stuff” from teddy bears and balloons to cards and, of course, aisles of chocolate.

With Cupid just around the corner, many of us have chocolate on our minds. And though you may fear the number of calories in those heart-shaped boxes, there are many reasons to love Valentine’s Day goodies…especially the dark chocolate treats.

I’ll bet most of you are aware of the anti-oxidant properties of dark chocolate. Anti-oxidants are those “scavengers” in the body that gobble up dangerous free radicals and other destructive molecules known to have a role in the spread of cancer.

Among foods such as fruits, veggies and teas, dark chocolate is actually one of the highest sources of two powerful anti-oxidants caked flavonoids and catechins. But wait! There’s more good news for your chocolate lovers. Here are five more reasons to treat yourself to a bite of chocolate:

1. It helps you exercise longer: A recent study found eating a tiny amount of dark chocolate before a workout helps fight fatigue. That amount used in the study was tiny…just half a square, but if it’s good quality chocolate, a small square will go a long way.

2. It’s stress relieving: When highly stressed study participants ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate (the equivalent of a Hershey’s Bar) a day for two weeks, the level of stress hormones in their bodies dropped significantly. While eating a candy bar a day can contribute to a whole new set of stresses if you’re watching your weight, it’s nice to know that dark chocolate has a measurable effect on stress levels. (Swap out the calories from a glass of wine and you won’t gain an ounce!)

3. It’s heart-healthy: Numerous studies have found that dark chocolate increases blood flow, which keeps your ticker in top shape. Those who ate small amounts of
chocolate a day had increased blood flow due to more dilated blood vessels, in addition to better heart function.

4. It’s good when you’re sick: If you can’t get the rest you need because of a nagging cough, try dark chocolate. Theobromine, an ingredient in the chocolate, has been proven to suppress a cough. Just be careful. If you’re trying to go to sleep, remember that a dark chocolate Hershey’s Bar has 30 milligrams of caffeine…the equivalent to a cup of tea.

5. It lowers blood pressure: Increasing blood flow also helps your heart in another way. A study found that eating a small square of dark chocolate a day helps regulate your blood pressure by increasing blood flow as well as dilating blood vessels and releasing nitric oxide. If you’re managing your blood pressure levels, a daily, small dose of dark chocolate may help!

So, there you have it. This Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to go for the chocolate –
just make sure it’s dark.

(And would one of you please remind my husband that See’s dark chocolate assortment is my fave? And yes, you can tell him I’ll share.)

Have a Happy, Healthy Valentine’s Day!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.