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Didja know…Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate?

Dark chocolate — not white chocolate — lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. 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.

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.

What is it about dark chocolate? The answer is plant phenols — cocoa phenols, to be exact. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure.

Chocolates made in Europe are generally richer in cocoa phenols than those made in the U.S. So if you’re going to try this at home, remember: Darker is better.

Just remember to balance the calories. A 100-gram serving of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 531 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you ate that much raw apple you’d only take in 52 calories. But then, you’d miss out on the delicious blood pressure benefit.

A hint: Don’t replace healthy foods with chocolate. Most people’s diets have plenty of sweets. Switch those for some chocolate if you’re going to try the truffle treatment.

author: Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD Health News

photo credit: CakeRecipeHouse

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