Recent research has shown that dark chocolate offers some surprisingly favorable health benefits, and the companies that make it want you to think that eating lots of it will improve your health.
A Harvard University study found that eating dark chocolate three times a month could prolong a person's life by roughly one year. Another study by Dundee University found that volunteers who ate dark chocolate cut their risk of developing blood clots by about 75 percent.
What these and other research studies have identified are the flavonoids found in cocoa. Flavonoids are chemicals derived from antioxidant-rich plants that are believed to offer a wide variety of nutritional benefits.
Flavonoids are also found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They help keep blood platelets from massing together, reducing the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke. They have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
But remember that the Harvard study said "three times a month." Most sources of dark chocolate are high calorie candy bars, and the health hazards of being overweight far outweigh the benefits that eating dark chocolate can provide. Check out the calorie count by searching the Misc. Groceries list for "dark."
You should also know that milk chocolate and white chocolate don't offer the same health benefits as dark chocolate. So if you enjoy an occasional bite of chocolate along with your usual healthy diet, try to make it dark.
Megan Porter, RD