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The health benefits of chocolate

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

It's Christmas Day and that means lots of chocolate will be consumed by kids and adults alike.  As we know, chocolate contains sugars and lots of calories. New research tells us some surprising new information. 

New research indicates that chocolate may actually help you lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle. In fact, chocolate contains many substances that can improve your heart health.

Chocolate contains lots of substances called polyphenols which are important antioxidants.  These antioxidants can help prevent the oxidation of "bad" cholesterol (which makes it less likely to form plaques in the heart arteries). 

Chocolate can also lower blood pressure and reduce risk for heart disease. Red wine, which is also good for the heart, contains similar substances and who doesn't like a glass of wine with chocolate? 

Antioxidants are also known to protect against cancer. A Harvard study showed that in men over 65, chocolate consumption was associated with a longer life span. 

There may be a catch, though - as with most things, not all chocolate is created equal. It is important to choose a chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. If the first ingredient is sugar, it is not a good choice and does not have the same health benefits as the 70 percent cocoa.

Avoid Dutch processed chocolate as this removes all of the antioxidant properties—also look for organic and fair trade—these have no pesticides or fillers and are much healthier.

A new report from a study in the UK shows that the consumption of chocolate is associated with better weight loss. Those whose diet included chocolate did much better than those who did not. The study did not look at causation but simply reported an association.

In the study, patients were studied –weight loss measured and two groups were formed—one had a small taste of chocolate every day and the other group did not. 

In the study, nearly 85 percent of those that continued some chocolate intake during their diet actually lost weight. 

This is likely due to the fact that diets that are focused on elimination are doomed to fail. Previous research has shown that dieters who completely eliminate treats such as chocolate, wine and sweets are often more likely to put on weight as they ‘compensate' by eating more of other foods.

For more information, check out the video above.

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