Chocolate and Heart Health
Dark chocolate is loaded with stuff that's good for you, but it also has calories that most of us don't need.  New research shows for the first time that it just takes a little  to help your health.         

Dark, bitter chocolate is better because that's the taste of good chemicals, polyphenols, found in cocoa.

"What a polyphenol is, it's pretty much like putting paint on a tricycle to keep it from rusting.  It kinda does the same thing in your blood vessels," registered dietitian Dawn Prewitt said.

That can lower blood pressure.  New research compared people who ate dark chocolate every day to those who ate white chocolate. Only the dark chocolate eaters lowered their blood pressure.
     
So how much did people eat per day to get the heart benefit?  A quarter of an ounce, or about as much as a chocolate heart and that's just 30 calories.  Prewitt said that's good news considering some previous studies had people eating 500 calories of dark chocolate a day. Calories most of us don't need.   But can you eat just "one" little piece a day?

Prewitt has a tip to help you eat just one.

"You take and put the chocolate in your mouth and allow it to sit there and warm up to your mouth temperature," she said  "Close your eyes, relax and enjoy it.  You don't have to eat an entire Snickers."

The study found one piece a day lowered the top blood pressure number by almost three points, the bottom by two. The benefit may seem small, but researchers said it's significant in lowering heart attack and stroke risk and Prewitt said you can always add other polyphenol-rich foods like green tea and blueberries. 

The authors of the study emphasize that people with high blood pressure shouldn't replace their blood pressure medicine with chocolate.  The study is in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Meryl Lin McKean, FOX 4 News