Healthy Dark Chocolate & More Chocolate Recipes

Dark chocolate not only tastes good, it's good for you, too. It promotes heart health by lowering blood pressure and boosting your mood.

by Lynne Meredith Schreiber


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Good-for-You Dark Chocolate
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Good-for-You Dark Chocolate

    "Dark chocolate saves lives," says Arthur Agatston, M.D., a preventive cardiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and an admitted chocoholic. He bases his claim on a 2006 Scandinavian study, which showed that consuming small amounts of chocolate with 70 percent or more cocoa content -- and without fattening mix-ins such as caramel, butter, or too many nuts -- significantly diminished the likelihood of heart attacks.

    Derived from the cacao plant, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which help keep blood vessels clear and flowing, says Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic.

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Dark Chocolate Increases HDL

    Dark chocolate and cocoa powder increased good (HDL) cholesterol levels by 10 percent, according to a Finland study.

    When buying chocolate, avoid:
    -- milk chocolate

    -- heavily processed bars

    -- chocolate with marshmallows

    -- chocolate with caramel

    -- chocolate with cream

    Heart-healthy nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are OK. "The more plain the chocolate, the better," says Julia Zumpano, R.D., of the Cleveland Clinic.

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Feel Better with Chocolate

    Chocolate's naturally occurring serotonin and dopamine are potent antidepressants, Zumpano says. That makes this indulgence a good alternative to cigarettes and addictive drugs; its quick, blissful high won't hurt your body.

    Chocolate also prompts pleasure because it contains phenylethylamine, a natural pain reliever.

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Chocolate-Filled Lemon Meringues

    Mascarpone is a buttery-rich, extra-creamy cheese with a mild flavor. Here it's used to enhance a filling of cocoa powder and vanilla, a beguiling match for crisp low-fat lemon meringue shells.

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Saucy Chicken with Garbanzo Beans

    A little chocolate stirred into the chicken and bean mixture just before serving provides a rich but subtle flavor without adding lots of calories and fat.

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Salad with Oranges and Chocolate

    Scientists believe nuts may play a role in protecting against heart disease. Here almonds or walnuts team with salad greens, oranges, and a hint of chocolate for a spectacular side dish.

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Chocolate Accordion Bread

    If you've ever seen an accordion in action -- or made a paper fan -- you'll have no trouble folding and shaping the dough for this nutritious whole wheat breakfast or dessert bread.

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The Nation's Favorite Treat

    Chocolate's plant name, Theobroma cacao, is Greek for "food of the gods." Aztecs reserved it for royalty. But in the United States, anyone can eat it -- which is probably why Americans spend $13 billion annually on chocolate. Worldwide, people eat 3 billion pounds of chocolate a year.

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Our Favorite Chocolates

    We taste-tested about 20 brands of chocolate that contain at least 70 percent cacao for the best heart-health benefits. When the buzz wore off, six favorites rose to the top. Look for quality chocolate in specialty food stores or shop online.

    Here are our picks:

    Valor Dark Chocolate 70%

    El Ray, Apamate, Dark Chocolate, 73.5%

    Scharffen Berger, Bittersweet, 70%

    Bernard Castelain, Macaibo, 70%

    Unique Origin, Guyave, 71%

    E. Guittard, Quetzalcoatl, 72%

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