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Relax and Have Some Chocolate!

These flavonoids in chocolate may help relax the blood vessels in part by encouraging the body to make more nitric oxide (a substance released from the inner lining of blood vessels that causes the vessels to relax). That's according to research from an international team of scientists from the University of California-Davis, Harvard University, the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, and Masterfoods, Inc.

These researchers found that as healthy men ate flavanol-rich cocoa, the ability of their blood vessels to relax improved significantly, which was shown to be related to an increase in nitric oxide levels.

Chocolate Caution

The health benefits of chocolate may disappear if you are just adding these calories above and beyond your regular intake -- in which case you will most likely be adding pounds along with the flavanols.

So your best bet is to look for lower-fat, lower-sugar recipes that call for cocoa. We can also make sure the bite or two of chocolate some of us enjoy each day is the darker variety.

Here's a recipe for a cocoa-rich beverage to start you off. And have a happy chocolate (oops, I mean Valentine's) day, everyone!

Lite and Minty Hot Chocolate

Journal as: 1 cup of whatever type of milk you are using (skim or low-fat)

3 tablespoons SPLENDA No-Calorie Sweetener
3 tablespoons cocoa (preferably Dutch processed)
2 cups low-fat 1% milk or skim milk or fat-free half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

  • Add Splenda and cocoa to small saucepan and blend with whisk. Gradually add milk to cocoa mixture and whisk until blended.
  • Cook over medium-low heat until thoroughly heated. Stir in the peppermint extract and serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings

Per serving: 120 calories, 10 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 125 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25%.

Recipe provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

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