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Chocolate for Your Valentine a Healthy Idea

Expert says the dark kind protects against cancer, along with being sweet

FRIDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Giving dark chocolate to your Valentine might be more than sweet; it could help guard your true love against cancer.

"The great news this Valentine's Day is that in addition to being decadent and delicious, moderate amounts of dark chocolate may play a role in cancer prevention," Sally Scroggs, a health education manager at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's Cancer Prevention Center, said in a news release from the university.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that have been shown to combat cell damage that can lead to tumor growth. These antioxidants occur naturally in the cacao beans used to make all chocolate products.

"The main reason that eating dark chocolate, versus milk or white chocolate, reduces cancer risks is because it has a higher percentage of cacao, and thus antioxidants," Scroggs explained.

People should look for dark chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Recommended servings for dark chocolate are seven ounces per week, or about one ounce per day.

"Savoring a small amount of dark chocolate is much better than gulping soft drinks or eating doughnuts. Remember, dark chocolate is still a calorie-dense food that can be high in fat. You can enjoy it daily as part of a balanced diet, as long as you keep your portion size in check," Scroggs said.

She recommended buying chocolate that can be eaten in small portions, such as individually wrapped chocolates or boxed chocolates. Check the ingredients to make sure the chocolate doesn't contain fats, such as palm and coconut oils, and that they are made without the use of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenate oils.

More information

The American Dietetic Association has more about antioxidants.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, Feb. 2, 2009

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