Chocolate: The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful

A chocolate heart dusted with cocoa powder and sitting on a cocoa-covered backgroundChocolate. We love it, but most of us aren’t sure about what it does and doesn’t do for us. Is it good for you or bad for you? Does it really put you in the mood for some loving? Does it really hurt your skin? Can it really save your heart?

Here’s how to better use (and of course, eat) chocolate to enhance your health…

The Good: Eat chocolate for your heart.
High cholesterol is a big contributor to heart disease—the number one killer of women. A low-cholesterol diet tends to limit eggs, meat, cheese, but chocolate should stay on that list of heart-healthy foods. A study found that substances derived from antioxidant-rich cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and an elevation in HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

The Bad: Just a little is all you really need.
One study found that as few as 30 calories of flavanol-rich dark chocolate lowered blood pressure. Enjoy a couple of individually wrapped squares of your favorite chocolate to keep the calories in check.

The Beautiful: Chocolate can help make your skin softer and smoother.
The antioxidants and cocoa butter in chocolate help moisturize and promote healthy skin-cell development, keeping skin soft and supple, says Mira Goldin, whose New York City spa, Body by Brooklyn, offers a 90-minute chocolate massage that uses melted dark chocolate mixed with massage oil. Many beauty brands offer chocolate products if you’re looking for a DIY spa treatment.

The Good: Chocolate does not cause cavities.
In fact, chocolate may actually help prevent cavities and plaque build-up on the teeth, according to researchers.

The Bad: Indulgence can equal weight gain (okay, maybe this isn’t a surprise).
While it’s not exactly the worst thing in the world, eating too much of that box of chocolates can, of course, amount to some weight gain. However, if you try not to go too overboard, you can successfully aim to work it off with an extra gym session, or by skipping your afternoon treat.

The Beautiful: Think of chocolate as a fountain of youth.
Cocoa beans are filled with antioxidants that combat inflammation from free radicals, which can leave skin puffy and red. According to Allison Tannis, M.S., R.H.N., the author of Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles, when cocoa beans are converted into chocolate bars, they can lose much of their antioxidants, which is why she recommends drinking cocoa with skim milk. Plus, it’s a great mood-boosting food.

By the way…sorry to potentially bust one very popular chocolate myth, but scientists have not been able to prove that chocolate increases sexual desire in women. Sorry guys.

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