Many people think that, in order to be healthy, they have to give up the sweets. However, this is not always the case. Especially not in the case of chocolate. Studies are showing that small amounts of dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate may actually be good for you. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids—antioxidant-like compounds that protect the cardiovascular system. They are strongly believed to improve circulation by relaxing blood vessels. Endothelial cells in blood vessels are involved with blood clotting and regulating blood pressure. Flavonoids give these endothelial cells a temporary boost to improve blood flow. Flavonoids may also retard the inevitable processes of aging, like other antioxidants.
Make sure you keep the portions small, however. Like most sweets, dark chocolate is high in fat, sugar and calories. If your calorie needs allow, look for a small amount of dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa for the best health benefits, says Julie Fortenberry, LDN, RD, Sports and Lifestyle Nutritionist. Milk chocolate contains fewer flavonoids than dark chocolate and white chocolate has little to none, so you may want to avoid them. Other foods that contain flavonoids include green and black teas, Red Delicious apples with the peels on, grapes and apricots.
See your doctor regularly for checkups and consult a licensed nutritionist for a meal plan geared toward your individual needs.
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