Chocolate lovers rejoice: the sweet treat has some surprising health benefits, from boosting your brainpower to combating certain pregnancy complications and reducing heart attack risk. It might even offer some protection against cancer, some recent studies suggest. The ingredients credited with these health pluses are flavanols, antioxidant compounds also found in tea, wine, fruits and vegetables.
“We now have good science on chocolate, especially dark chocolate on blood pressure,” Dr. Luc Djoussé of Harvard Medical School said, in a National Institutes of Health report, “Claims About Cocoa,” published this month. His research team found an overall drop in blood pressure in people who eat more chocolate. “The effect was even stronger in people with high blood pressure.” Here’s a rundown on what scientists know about chocolate’s impact on health risks:
We can’t afford to get too enthusiastic about chocolate as a health food: Eating too much of this high-calorie treat could lead to weight gain—sabotaging the health benefits. But it couldn’t hurt to ration out a square or two a few times a week. Integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, MD, considers dark chocolate a healthy snack in moderation. Here are some chocolate do’s and don’ts:
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