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Dark Chocolate Good for the Heart

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Add more fiber to your diet. Don't forget about nuts, seeds, legumes, and some lean meats. It's the kind of nutritional advice you expect to hear from your doctor or dietitian to protect your heart and your health.

And it's important when heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States that claims the lives of an estimated 600,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But if you get a craving for something sweet, then what? Do you suck it up and resist the urge or indulge yourself in a high-calorie treat and promise to do better next time? Before you decide, research suggests there may actually be a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth and lower your risk for heart disease at the same time. Eat dark chocolate.

In the study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers followed 44 people for four weeks. At the beginning of the study, researchers evaluated the heart health of each participant. Then everyone in the study ate 70 grams of dark chocolate every day, and were advised to steer clear of other sweet treats and desserts. Researchers found that nutrients in dark chocolate improved heart health by softening the arteries and improving blood flow.

If you want to protect your heart, keep your blood pressure under control, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise. A little dark chocolate to go with your meal or enjoy as a treat may help too. Just don't eat too much, because it could lead to weight gain.