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Good Chocolate, Bad Chocolate, and How to Tell the Difference

Real chocolate is a great (and delicious) source of health-promoting polyphenols. But not all chocolates are created equal.

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Good Chocolate, Bad Chocolate, and How to Tell the Difference

If you’re like us, every time you hear about another study touting the health and beauty benefits of chocolate you do a little happy dance. A little daily dose of chocolate as a health food—what could be better than that?

MORE: The Beauty Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Chocolate contains naturally occurring antioxidants called flavanols and epicatechins (two types of flavonoids)—but they act not as antioxidants (sorry to get all technical on you), but as polyphenols that help keep your blood flowing freely to decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, and reduce your blood pressure. They also help protect your skin from UV damage from the sun—that means fewer wrinkles and a more even complexion. Wait, there’s more: Studies have also found that adults who eat a little chocolate five times a week have lower BMIs. And chocolate dampens the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Taken all together, this means that chocolate keeps you looking and feeling younger because it helps you control your blood pressure, avoid wrinkles, keep your skin younger and stay slimmer.

The most recent bit of research news, out of Penn State University, is that when mice were fed a diet that included cocoa, they had less inflammation than mice who didn’t get cocoa.

QUIZ: Are You Doing What It Takes to Look Younger Longer?

If that translates to humans, it means that regularly drinking a nice hot cup of cocoa could help you avoid some of the effects of diseases such as diabetes. But it’s not just as simple as spooning some chocolate powder into a warm glass of milk. If you want to reap the benefits of chocolate, you have to be a little more discerning. Let us break it down for you.

Do: Choose dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao to get enough flavonoids to make a difference.

Don’t: Go for any milk chocolate bar off the shelf, which won’t have enough polyphenol power and is probably loaded with added sugar and milk. If those are the first two ingredients, move along.

Do: Limit yourself to about an ounce a day in the afternoon or as a mini-dessert after dinner.

Do: Mix a mug of real cocoa with skim milk. (No added sugar, please!)

Do: Enjoy yourself! A little bit of chocolate every day for better heart health, skin and less stress is a win-win-win-win!

MORE: Chocolate Espresso Mouse Recipe for Healthy Skin

Valerie Fischel
dark chocolate infographic

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