Chocolate’s Secret Health Benefits

Remember that scene in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper in which Woody, who has been frozen for 200 years, wakes up to find that chocolate and banana cream pie are now health foods? Well, it’s not so far-fetched.

Chocolate is chock full of potent antioxidants called phenols, the same as those found in wine. In fact, a 1.5-ounce chocolate bar has as much antioxidant power as a 5-ounce glass of red wine. (White chocolate, which doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, doesn’t count.) And contrary to popular belief, chocolate contains only a very small amount of caffeine.

More good news: One-third of the fat in chocolate is a cholesterol-friendly fat called stearic acid, and another third is an unsaturated fat called oleic acid. When Pennsylvania researchers (including some from the Mars candy company) had 23 people follow either the average American diet or the same diet supplemented with 22 grams of cocoa powder and 16 grams of dark chocolate, they found that the chocolate diet reduced LDL oxidation. If you’re going to indulge:

Choose dark. Dark chocolate contains more phenols than other forms of chocolate. Milk chocolate contains milk fat (palmitic acid) that is highly saturated. Semi-sweet chocolate has less fat than milk chocolate.

Kill two birds. Dip strawberries into melted chocolate for a high-antioxidant snack that can easily satisfy one or two fruit servings. An easy way to get melted chocolate is to simply microwave semi-sweet chocolate chips on medium for about 30 seconds. Be sure the strawberries are complete dry before you dip.

Go for quality. Buy the richest, creamiest chocolate you can afford. You’ll be more satisfied with one piece of the good stuff than five pieces of the mediocre stuff.

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