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Be Sweet to Your Heart With Chocolate?

By Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger, R.D.

For me, there’s no better treat than a piece of good-quality, rich chocolate to savor. And my indulgence of choice just got a little sweeter. A new and emerging research study recently published in the European Heart Journal followed nearly 20,000 people between the ages of 35 and 65 and found that participants who ate an average of 7.5 grams of chocolate a day had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than those participants who ate an average of 1.7 grams per day (a difference of approximately one small square from a standard 100-gram bar). While it’s easy to take findings like these straight to, well, heart, it’s important to take a step back. While many studies, this one included, give reasons why chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may provide cardio-protective benefits, you won’t be seeing chocolate listed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans anytime soon—there’s just no true scientific consensus among experts, and more studies are required to confirm these early findings. The other reason? Chocolate is still candy and is high in calories! So if you are a chocolate fan, you’ll want to be sure to keep servings under control and to steer clear of other high-calorie snacks to help keep your body weight stable.

So here’s my take: When I do enjoy chocolate on occasion, I relish it for the taste and don’t worry much about the possible health benefits. I depend on a wide variety of healthy foods (lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein) to do the “work” of feeding my body to keep me healthy. Chocolate, on the other hand, that’s just for pleasure. And that’s good enough for me.

 

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