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Chocolate Rx

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Dear Dr. Levister: I’ve heard chocolate is good for you. If so what are the health benefits?

Dear Chocoholic: There’s a saying: For some there's therapy, for the rest of us there's chocolate.

Yes, sometimes there is nothing like enjoying the sweet sensation of creamy, rich and delicious chocolate melting in your mouth to relieve stress, help you relax, and soothe the soul.

Chocolate has long been touted as a feel-good food. After all, it tastes great and has enough serotonin and caffeine to perk you up a bit. But the real benefits of chocolate didn’t come to light until more recently when research found that chocolate, especially the dark kind made with more cocoa solids, is rich in flavonoids – plant pigments that act as antioxidants, protecting your body from the kind of cell damage and inflammation that can lead to heart disease and cancer.

In fact, dark chocolate, which is lower in calories and higher in flavonoid content than milk chocolate or white chocolate, contains eight times the antioxidants found in strawberries!

That’s good news for the millions who love chocolate in candy kisses, bars, baked goods, beverages and sinful desserts. Of course, nobody’s recommending that you replace your daily fruits and vegetables with a “Death by Chocolate” dessert (popular in many restaurants), but research has taken much of the guilt out of a moderate daily chocolate habit.

So go ahead, indulge. Just make sure your chocolate is dark and keep your daily dose small. You don’t need a lot to reap the benefits. A recent study shows that just 30 calories worth of dark chocolate a day will do the trick.

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