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Dark Chocolate: For A Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day! | Health

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Dark Chocolate: For A Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day!
Dark Chocolate: For A Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day!

McLean, VA - February 9, 2012 – Good news!  Giving your sweetheart a gift of dark chocolate on Valentine's Day is not only romantic, it's also heart-healthy!

According to Dr. Gary Kaplan, director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, “The research is clear: dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants that fight dangerous 'free radicals' in your body, and it also provides significant protection against cardiovascular disease."

The term “free radicals” refers to atoms that are missing electrons. These impaired atoms can interfere with the proper functioning of the cell membrane or DNA, and thus open the door to aging, cancer, and other diseases.  Antioxidants, which are mostly supplied to the body through diet, can safely "defuse" free radicals.

“The research is quite astounding -- the cocoa in dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than what we find in fruits and vegetables!” says Kaplan. “And in terms of heart health, there’s even more good news. Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure as much as engaging in regular, moderate exercise, which translates into a 20% decrease risk of cardiovascular disease over a period of 5 years. In addition, it increases the elasticity of the blood vessels, it decreases plaque formations in the blood vessels, it reduces inflammation in your body, and it lowers LDL (low-density lipoprotein or ‘bad’) cholesterol.”

But before you open that box of chocolates, Dr. Kaplan advises:

  • Only dark chocolate provides health benefits; so stay away from the milk and white varieties.
  • Look for dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa, the ingredient that is the source of antioxidants. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better!
  • Eat chocolate in moderation -- not more than between 1.5 and 3.5 ounces per day. Although dark chocolate is good for you, the best diet is a balanced diet, so make sure you're also eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Also, remember that if you add calories to your diet by eating chocolate, you must exercise more or eliminate other foods to maintain your current weight.
  • Finally, don't eat chocolate at night; it provides a dose of caffeine that can interfere with proper sleep, which is also essential to obtaining and maintaining good health.

In sum, including dark chocolate in your diet can significantly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as adding a small dose of edible pleasure!


About Dr. Gary Kaplan and The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine: The Center’s founder and medical director is Dr. Gary Kaplan.  Board-certified in Family Medicine, Pain Medicine and Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Kaplan is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.



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