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Heart-Smart Chocolate

Photo: Oxmoor House
Mounting evidence shows that certain forms of chocolate may be good for your health. The key is in the cocoa content.

What to look for:

When the right kind is eaten in moderation, chocolate may help reduce high blood pressure, reduce LDL (the “bad cholesterol”), or even provide potential cancer-fighting benefits. Chocolate and cocoa come from a plant—the cacao (pronounced ca-COW)—and contain plant compounds that researchers credit with these health benefits. However, researchers don’t attribute these effects to milk chocolate bars or chocolate-coated candies but specifically to dark chocolate and minimally processed cocoa powder—the more cocoa in the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains. You’ll want to avoid highly alkalized, or Dutch process, as this can significantly reduce the beneficial compounds found in chocolate. Choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more, and limit your portion to about 1.5 ounces. That ensures you’ll reap the health benefits without adding too many calories.