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    Satisfy your cravings with these healthier chocolate recipes

    Is chocolate the answer to bad moods, high stress, and broken hearts? Maybe not, but lots of women feel it comes pretty darn close. A world without chocolate would be a pretty tasteless place.Chocolate is the superstar of food cravings: 68% of women's food cravings are for chocolate. (I can tell you that I, for one, am somewhere in that 68%.) And the time we crave it the most? Apparently, it's an afternoon delight. Don't even try to get between a woman in need and a candy bar machine around 3 o'clock!

    A recent review study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association said that "chocolate cravings are real." Any woman in the midst of PMS could have told them that! And ignoring those cravings may not be such a good idea. A recent study on normal-weight women, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, suggested that forbidding chocolate only leads to greater temptation -- and greater chocolate consumption.

    For many, "comfort" is synonymous with chocolate. Some of the top-rated comfort foods? Try chocolate cookies, chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate ice cream. It's no coincidence that both versions of the "Better Than Sex Cake" recipes that made their way across America several years ago featured chocolate.

    No food tantalizes the taste buds quite like chocolate. It represents a divine blend of more than 500 flavors (2 1/2 times more flavors than any other food!) And no other food has its sensual depth -- even its melting point is sensual: Chocolate melts almost immediately in response to human touch because its melting point is just below body temperature.

    Couple that with chocolate's other appealing characteristics -- like the blend of fat and sugar, the smooth texture, and arousing aroma -- and you've got quite possibly the most alluring food on the planet!

    But our attraction to chocolate goes even further than that. There may be a hormonal link to chocolate cravings, as they often come and go with the monthly hormonal fluctuations and mood swings of women. There also happen to be several biologically active substances in chocolate (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, cannabinoid-like fatty acids) that may cause psychological sensations similar to addictive substances, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

    Here's the best news of all: Chocolate may actually be good for you (at least in the form of cocoa). Cocoa beat out red wine and green and black tea as having the highest levels of heart-healthy antioxidant activity, according to a recent study. The researchers also noted that cocoa had much higher levels of two phytochemicals (total phenolics and flavonoids) than the wine or tea. The flavonoids found in cocoa are thought to benefit the heart in a couple of ways, including possible antioxidant protection.

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