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Straight, No Chaser: The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate, aka Happy Valentine's Day!

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD November 13, 2018

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Got Dark Chocolate?

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As you may know if you’re a regular reader, Straight, No Chaser is big on you enjoying life and making healthy choices while doing so. In that spirit, on this day of roses and chocolates, we’re here to share with you the benefits of dark chocolate.
That’s right. Chocolate does have health benefits, but all chocolate is not created equal. If your loved one gives you chocolates today, that’s great (if that’s your thing). If s/he gives you dark chocolate, that’s an extra level of loving!
Straight, No Chaser has previously discussed the health benefits of antioxidants. Here’s the thing: antioxidants are substances that prevent or delay cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are byproducts of many activities that create cell damage. Think about cigarette smoke, trauma (even excessively vigorous exercise), excessive heat and sunlight (and its radiation), to name a few examples. The process of creating and releasing these molecules is called oxidation. The key point is free radicals are unstable and too many of them lead to a process called oxidative stress. This process is implicated in the development of many illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cataracts and other eye diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Antioxidants fight this process; this is why foods rich in antioxidants are called superfoods!

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Here are the known benefits of dark chocolate:

  1. It lowers blood pressure.
  2. It increases the levels of antioxidants, which reduces the incidence of heart disease of other conditions.
  3. It potential slows the onset of many (if not any) disease made likely by increased levels of free radicals. This points to benefits for brain health, slowing aging, cancer prevention and many other conditions.

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Here’s how to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate:

  1. Remember, it’s dark chocolate (not white chocolate or milk chocolate) that provides these health benefits.
  2. Offset the extra calories you’re ingesting by exercise or otherwise eating less.
  3. Don’t drink milk while enjoying your dark chocolate; it appears to interfere with the body’s absorption of the dark chocolate.
  4. Go for European dark chocolate if available. It’s richer in cocoa phenols (the specific compounds known to lower blood pressure).
  5. Remember that a dark chocolate diet is not a thing! This is you making healthy choices even as you enjoy sweets.

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So if you’re going to chomp down on a truffle or bon-bon today, make it dark chocolate. And hold the milk. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
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