Wonder if your daily sugar fix is doing more harm than good? Well it's true, too much of the processed white stuff can do serious damage to your immune system and your waistline but what about chocolate?
According to a study published Monday in the cardiology health journal Heart, instead of fighting that chocolate craving, it might be time to indulge it.
Researchers found that eating up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate every day was linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.
The study tracked the health and eating habits of nearly 21,000 men and women.
"The calculations showed that compared with those who ate no chocolate, higher intake was linked to an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% lower risk of associated death," according to a statement from Heart.
But more research is needed, according to Howard LeWine, the chief medical editor of the
"We don't yet know enough to put eating chocolate on a par with eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains," he wrote on the university's blog.
LeWine reviewed the study and concluded that while the findings indicate an interesting link between cocoa and heart health, it doesn't prove cause and effect.
"It's possible that people who like to eat chocolate do something else that offers heart protection, like eat a wide variety of healthful foods," he wrote.
So is there any truth to the claim chocolate is a trusted source of antioxidants? Yes says the Food Network blog:
"New research is emerging all the time about the potential health benefits of this sweet treat. The cacao plant (from which chocolate is made) is a rich source of antioxidants called flavanols. Antioxidants keep you healthy by fending off free radical damage that leads to — among other things — cancer. And flavanols have specific benefits for your heart: They can lower blood pressure, make blood platelets less sticky and improve blood flow — all of which helps prevent heart disease."
Researchers had subjects eat 60-percent-cacao chocolate and then tested brain activity using EEG images. What they found is that after eating the chocolate, subjects experienced an immediate stimulant effect, their brains were more alert and their blood pressure increased temporarily. This makes chocolate perfect for combating what Stevens calls “the afternoon cognitive slump.” This, coupled with the heart-healthy benefits makes chocolate almost as good as your morning cup O' Joe.
Researchers advise though, not any old candy bar will do the trick, however. Look for dark chocolate bars that contain at least 60 percent cacao, and Smooth 8 recommends striving for organic, fair trade options that are 70% or more of the yummy noir stuff.
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