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Dark chocolate is candy, adding extra calories, fat, and sugar to your diet. Being overweight can increase your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. But, it is not all bad news. Here are four health benefits associated with eating dark chocolate may:

  • Lower cholesterol. Regular consumption of dark chocolate (containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols), as a part of a balanced, low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Modest chocolate consumption may also drop your risk of getting diabetes.
  • Lower your risk of heart attack. Consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by a third, at least according to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris, France.
  • Lower your stroke risk.Canadian scientists examined 44,489 individuals and found that consumers of chocolate were 22 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who didn’t. Among those who had a stroke but regularly consumed chocolate, there was a 46 percent lower probability of death in the follow-up period.
  • Prevent memory decline. Researcher at Harvard Medical School found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep your brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people. It may be the result of improved blood flow to parts of the brain.

Any downsides? Unfortunately, chocolate is associated with a high calorie count, and has lots of sugar. So if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, set a limit on the chocolate consumption.  In addition, the sugar in the chocolate can lead to tooth decay or even poorer bone density and strength. Given the pros and cons of chocolate, if you are a consumer, please eat it only in moderation. Aim for high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. And if you really want more antioxidants, hit the produce aisle at the market. There you will find some fruits and vegetables that are chock full of cancer risk-reducing antioxidants and phytochemical. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.