Party Girl Diet Skinny Fast Fudge RecipeIn addition to being crowned an “aphrodisiac” food possessing powers to enhance your sex drive – a preliminary body of research suggests consuming dark chocolate may also improve your heart health. Just the answer you’ve been looking for if you are among the scores of chocolate lovers who enjoy eating this sinfully delicious treat on a regular basis. Yet please read on to get the full story before you take another bite.

According to docuented research,chocolate, and its main ingredient cocoa appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. In addition, the flavanols in cocoa beans may have anti-oxicant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Research also shows flavanols also help lower blood preassure and improve vascular function.

Keep in mind, dark chocolate contains more flavonols than does milk chocolate, and the evidence for the healthy benefits of flavanol-rich chocolate comes mostly from short-term and uncontrolled studies. More research will be needed to confirm chocolate’s ultimate role in heart health.

If you want to add chocolate to your diet, do so in moderation because most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories, and too much can contribute to unwanted weight gain, a risk factor for high blood preassure, heart disease and diabetes.

Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Limit yourself to no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) a day, which is the amount shown in studies to be helpful. Because this amount may provide up to 450 calories, you may want to cut calories in other areas and/or step up the exercise to increase the amount of calories you can eat daily without gaining weight.

As far as dark chocolate’s reputation for enhancing one’s libido, research shows that when consumed, dark chocolate makes our brain secrete “feel good” endorphins, which create the same brain chemistry we experience when we fall in love. Try experimenting with different brands and flavors of chocolate, and do make sure you are conciously “present” when eating chocolate, in order to savor and appreciate the moment.

The moral of the story?  While the jury’s still out on exactly how beneficial eating dark chocolate can be for your heart, a modest body of reseach does support the claims that eating dark chocolate in moderation can be a healthy treat, and may just be one of those sinfully delicious pleasures in life ~ with benefits.

This article originally ran in Aprilanne Hurley’s San Francisco Nutrition Examiner Column and is reprinted with permission.

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