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Chocolate Amore!

If registered dietitians had prescription pads, there are certain foods I’d be doling out regular doses of to all my clients. One at the top of my list is dark chocolate! Cocoa is really in a category all its own. No other food on the planet provides the same melt in your mouth satisfaction, and it just happens to be bursting with tons of good-for-you nutrients.

In a nutshell, here’s what we know: dark chocolate contains natural substances that relax blood vessels, opening up blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Heart attack survivors who ate chocolate twice a week cut their risk of dying from heart disease about threefold and a another study found that seven days of dark chocolate slashed women’s "bad" LDL cholesterol by 6% and increased the "good" HDL by 9%. Regular dark chocolate eaters also have lower levels of a substance called C-reactive protein, which rises in the body with inflammation, a known trigger of aging, and yet another study found that chocolate significantly improved cognitive test scores in older adults and may slash Alzheimer's risk. Its antioxidants have even been shown to protect your skin from UV rays!

This can’t-live-without treat has definitely earned superfood status in my book, but capping the calories is also the key to reaping its rewards. My advice is to savor a single square every day (or on the days you need a fix) without distraction (e.g. not while checking your email or surfing the web), or think of it as a “condiment.” Melt a few dark chocolate squares and use as a dip for fresh fruit – you’ll save 200 calories compared to 4 chocolate dipped pretzels. Or add a few Tbsp of chocolate chips to a smoothie made from 1 cup each of skim or soy milk and frozen unsweetened berries or cherries – the calorie cost is over 500 less than a traditional chocolate milkshake.

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