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Health: Chocolate is good for you; No need to beat yourself up this Easter - a bit of choccy in moderation isn't as bad as you think.

Byline: Words: Caroline Blight and Lynne Michelle

Wherever you go at the moment there's chocolate. Lovely, yummy chocolate, which of course you have to resist because it's bad for you. Or is it? Turns out there are some real health benefits in eating chocolate - especially the dark variety - as long as you do it in moderation.

1 It helps your heart

Research from the University of California suggests eating small amounts of chocolate can help prevent blood clotting - great news for anyone prone to heart attacks, strokes or deep vein thrombosis. They found when volunteers ate dark chocolate (where do we sign up?), it decreased platelet activity, meaning blood was less likely to thicken and clot. The effect is similar to aspirin, but a lot more fun. Chocolate also contains phenol, a chemical which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Add the fact that a third of the fat in chocolate is made of oleic acid, which has been shown to be good for your heart, and you have a great reason to indulge a little. Obviously moderation is the key here - the benefits don't go up the more chocolate you eat.

2 It's nutritious

Chocolate is a good source of magnesium and iron, which is why women might crave chocolate more during their period. It also has a decent amount of zinc which boosts the immune system. Paula Radcliffe's marathon training regime involves eating bars of Cadbury's Dairy Milk for its nutritional value (at least, that's her story).

3 It helps you live longer

Research from Harvard University found men over 65 who ate chocolate up to three times a month lived nearly a year longer than those who never nibbled so much as an M&M. The scientists decided the men's longevity was probably down to the antioxidants found in chocolate. Antioxidants help fight diseases and protect against cancer, so it could be argued that scoffing a little every day plays a part in healthy eating. (Please note the word `little' - the same study found that mortality was highest among those chomping their way through mountains of chocolate.)

4 It's (almost) tooth-friendly

OK, so the sugar in chocolate isn't great for your teeth, but if you're going to indulge in something sweet you could do a lot worse. Because you tend to chew chocolate quickly rather than suck it, the sugar doesn't stay in your mouth as long as, say, boiled sweets. It also contains tannins, which actually help to slow down the growth of dental bacteria.

5 It busts stress

Just catching a whiff of chocolate is enough to calm you down and cheer you up. Research from Middlesex University found the receptors in our noses respond so strongly to the chemicals in chocolate that we can experience an emotional high if we get within sniffing distance of a Snickers. The aroma has also been shown to slow down brain waves, leaving you feeling clam and relaxed. Chocolate also contains a chemical called phenylethamine (PEA), which increases the amount of serotonin and endorphins in your brain - both of which make you feel happy. And if that's not enough to chill you out, your favourite treat also contains valeric acid, which is a known relaxant and tranquilliser.

6 It boosts concentration and energy

Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which makes you more alert but doesn't have any of the nasty side-effects of caffeine. The sugar in chocolate boosts your energy levels, but the fat content means it's absorbed into your blood more slowly. It actually has a lower glycaemic index than a bowl of cornflakes, which means it won't raise your blood sugar levels too quickly and leave you flagging half an hour later.

CHOC-FIEND CELEBS

Nestle Double Cream has a huge fan in comedian Julian Clary, who says he just loves getting

stuck into that rich chocolatey stuff.

Stella McCartney loves posh chocs Charbonnel et Walker so much she designed a limited-edition box for them, filled with all her favourites fruit creams. (And a coffee one for Heather Mills.)

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne went extra gooey when they renewed their wedding vows recently - the pair had a mini Godiva store built in the gardens of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Specialising in soft-centred nutty ones perhaps?

Posh and Becks are regulars at Thorntons in Manchester's Trafford Centre, and last Easter they bought eggs iced with `Daddy'. (Presumably `Mummy' doesn't eat such highly calorific items.)

Our favourite Pop Idol boy Darius Danesh likes to play with his food. `Ask someone to hide six Maltesers about their person while you do the same,' purrs the Scotsman. `Now find each other's chocolate.' Darius, we've got a box ready and waiting.

La la la, la-la la-la-la, laah... oh honestly, Kylie, we can't understand a word you're saying when you talk with your mouth full. And it's just not right that you can stuff your face with Green &

Black's organic dark chocolate and still have a bum like that.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 20, 2003
Words:839
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