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Chocolate: The Sweet Truth

There's been a lot of talk recently about the health benefits of chocolate. It sounds too good to be true, so The Early Show's Dr. Beradine Healy separates fact from fiction in the great chocolate debate - just in time for Valentine's Day. Cancer, heart disease and stroke are major diseases linked in part to oxidized products in the human bloodstream. Antioxidants that appear in chocolate decrease the chance of having cancer or heart disease, and damage of blood vessels.

From this perspective the purest chocolate would be best. So dark chocolate would be the ideal. When you start lacing it with butter, cream and nuts, then one loses the full effect of dark chocolate.

This does not mean people should indulge in chocolate desserts. One small chocolate bar has 240 calories, and having a balanced diet is important. Don't feel guilty about the chocolate, but remember it should only be part of a healthy and balanced diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Wine also has a lot of the same kinds of antioxidants found in chocolate - with the same benefits. But don't drink too much red wine either. One glass is fine. The prospect of a whole bottle should give someone pause.

Here are some common ideas about chocolate and what is known medically:

Does chocolate cause acne?

No, a lot of doctors disproved that notion. A lot of people think that because teen-agers get acne. But there's no evidence for that.

Is chocolate high in fat?

It comes with calories but this is a plant fat. That's not as bad as animal fat.

Is it an aphrodisiac?

Indians used chocolate in Columbus' day and they thought it was an aphrodisiac. It was seen as a very powerful, wonderful, elegant kind of food. But in fact there is no proof of such qualities.

Is chocolate high in caffeine?

The substance has about a 10th of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. But, yes, this caffeine is a stimulant.
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