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The surprising health benefits of eating chocolate (in moderation)

If you are one of millions who enjoy the sweet sensory pleasures of chocolate, you’ll be happy to know your sweet habit may actually be healthy. In the U.S. alone annual chocolate sales exceed $7 billion.

While the average American kicks back and enjoys about 11 pounds of chocolate per year and spends more than $7 billion annually, it’s the Swiss who lead the world chocolate consumption with more than 21 pounds per person.

Although not all chocolate is created equal, most types of chocolate offer some level of health benefits. Whether you satisfy your sweet craving by eating brownies, candy bars, drinking chocolate milk, or nibbling on a divine variety of truffles, you may just be doing your body good.

Research shows that while chocolate can improve vascular endothelial function, delay blood clotting and help moderate inflammation, it has other health benefits as well.

Healthy heart
The US National Library of Medicine says eating a little chocolate can be good for your heart. Consuming as little as 7 grams of dark chocolate made of 70 percent cocoa may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The flavanols found in chocolate can enhance heart health due to their ability to act as antioxidants. While many foods such as cherries and apples contain flavanols, dark chocolate is the richest source.

Blood pressure
Although the effect may be modest, eating chocolate can have positive results for those with high blood pressure. Several studies show that eating chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can help lower blood pressure.

Blood clotting
Most people who suffer heart attacks and strokes do so from blood clots that have formed in the critical arteries. These critical arteries suffer impaired blood flow often from overly activated platelets that promote blood clots and blockage of blood vessels. There is evidence to show that flavan-3-ols, a compound found in cocoa, reduces platelet activation.

A report by Harvard Health Publications says the flavonoid compound found in cocoa is beneficial in reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation and increasing levels of HDL (good cholesterol).

Despite the fact that chocolate has proven health benefits, it does contain its fair share of calories. Eating too much chocolate can lead to weight gain so it’s important to choose healthy chocolate and aim for a goal of 90 to 100 kcal portions a few times a week. When choosing your chocolate, remember that additions such as nuts and caramel only add calories.

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