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Chocolate & Nutrition

Chocolate and Nutrition By Linda Larsen, About.com Guid Chocolate, in moderate amounts, can actually be good for you! This is great news for people who love sweets but are trying to eat healthy. Here's the scoop: • Stearic acid is the main saturated fat found in cocoa butter. It doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels. It may also decrease platelet activity, contributing to heart health in a similar way that baby aspirin decreases that activity. • Eating a small amount of chocolate will probably prevent a chocolate binge. So when you feel a craving, have a piece! • Chemicals in chocolate called tannins actually prevent cavities from forming. • A chocolate bar has around 3-4 grams of protein. • Chocolate contains antioxidants called flavanoids, a category of polyphenols, which may prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of cancer and other age-related chronic diseases. One study found that the polyphenol content in chocolate is four times that found in tea. The monounsaturated fat in chocolate, oleic acid, is also found in olive oil. It can lower LDL and total cholesterol levels in the blood. • Chocolate is a plant-based food, and contains many nutrients found in other plant foods. • High flavanol cocoa in beverage form may help blood flow in those who are diabetic by increasing normal endothelial function in the blood vessels. • A 1.55 ounce milk chocolate bar contains 9 grams of caffeine, compared to around 40 in a regular soft drink. • Believe it or not, there is no scientific evidence linking sugar consumption to hyperactivity in children. As a matter of fact, sugar consumption has a calming effect because it increases the level of serotonin in the brain. (Source: Food and Drug Administration's "An Evaluation of Health Aspects of Sugars Contained in Carbohydrate Sweeteners" (1986)) • Chocolate is a good source of essential minerals copper, magnesium and calcium. So enjoy chocolate this Valentine's Day!

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