Positive reinforcement

I love news like this, because it reinforces that there’s no need to deny yourself tasty foods in order to have a long, healthy life…

A few weeks ago, a group of British researchers released yet another report that cocoa reduces risk of heart disease. Now, a group of Harvard researchers has pinned down those advantages even more.

The panel of Harvard School of Public Health researchers reviewed 24 studies–all of them “gold-standard” randomized, controlled trials–involving a total of 1,106 participants.

They determined that the people whose diets included chocolate had an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 1.6mm/Hg, which reduces stroke risk. They also had a significant increase in HDL “good” cholesterol, improved blood vessel dilation (which helps with blood flow), and decreased insulin resistance, which meant better blood sugar balance.

Here’s the caveat: You won’t get these benefits from M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, or Snickers bars…all of the research on chocolate’s benefits has focused on dark chocolate.

Look for products containing 80-90% cacao. Dark-chocolate-covered almonds are great, too. Or, better yet, make your own chocolate treats with the real thing…unsweetened cocoa, plus a little stevia to sweeten it up.