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Dieticians get sweet words on chocolate
DENVER, Colorado (Reuters) -- Trying to get rid of that craving for chocolate? Feel guilty when you've indulged? Relax. Chocolate -- a little at least -- may be good for you and your heart.
Recent studies indicate that eating chocolate resulted in higher antioxidants, which are believed to fight cardiovascular disease by cutting cholesterol, a panel of scientists told the American Dietetic Association here Monday.
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States.
The key is that chocolates contain flavonoids, a sub-group of polyphenols that are under intense study for possible health benefits. They can be found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, wine and tea.
But the research is only at the preliminary stage and nobody is suggesting consumers fill up on chocolate instead of fruits and vegetables. However, if someone is looking for a treat, chocolate may be a good bet.
"But we need large clinical studies," University of California at Davis researcher Francene Steinberg told dietitians at a panel discussion sponsored by Mars Inc., the candy company that makes Mars bars, M&Ms and Dove bars and has sponsored research on the subject.
Chocolate is being called a "functional food" meaning it provides health benefits beyond its nutritional value.
"Chocolate is certainly shaping up as a fabulous functional food," Elizabeth Applegate, who teaches nutrition at the University of California at Davis, told the audience.
"My take on it is that chocolate is one of a whole host of flavonoid-rich foods and you can get many of the same things from fruits and vegetables. It's not a substitute (for fruits and vegetables) it's some addition that can be added into the diet after some of the basic needs are met through fruits and vegetables," Steinberg said.
But some of the dietitians in the audience were not convinced, saying further study was needed, especially about a food high in calories and sugar. Because research is still going on there is no recommended daily serving for chocolate, although Applegate in sample menus said additions of about 200 calories of chocolate could be eaten within the context of a daily healthy diet.
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