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With some questionable health advice being posted by your friends on Facebook, politicians arguing about the state of the American healthcare system and a new medical study being summarized in just a sentence or two on TV---that seems to contradict the study you heard summarized yesterday---it can be overwhelming to navigate the ever changing landscape of health news.Every Thursday at 5:42 a.m., 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs provides health information you can trust. With trustworthy sources, she explores the fact and fiction surrounding various medical conditions and treatments, makes you aware of upcoming screenings, gives you prevention strategies and more…all to your health.Local support for To Your Health comes from Fresh Healthy Cafe in Cape Girardeau -- located inside St. Francis Medical Center. Online ordering is at freshsaintfrancis.com

To Your Health: Can Chocolate Be Good for You?

Flickr user Stewart Butterfield (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

The British comedian Jo Brand once remarked, “anything is good if it is made of chocolate.” But can anything made of chocolate also be good for you? Would you like to feel less guilty about the chocolates you ate on Valentine’s Day?

Chocolate can be good for you, or at least the plant compounds called cocoa flavonoids can be, but there are just as many caveats as health benefits. The chocolate needs to be dark and processed in such a way that doesn’t diminish the power of its flavenols, which have antioxidant qualities, and, according to Cleveland Clinic, have other potential influences on vascular health.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch also reports on chocolate’s effects on the brain. In a Harvard study,  older adults who drank two cups of cocoa a day for 30 days had improved blood flow to parts of their brain needed for memory and thinking. However, in order to consume the amount used in the studies, people would need to eat eight bars of dark chocolate every day. To get the advantages without the fat and calories, you can buy cocoa supplements which contain up to 250 milligrams of cocoa flavonoids per serving.

Taking your cocoa in supplement form might diminish one of the other positive health effects of chocolate: stress reduction.  Swiss scientists  found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated.

So, as wonderful as it might be to think of that Whitman’s Sampler as health food, the truth is that eating a small amount of fine dark chocolate may provide the sweetest benefits.


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