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Are All Those Kisses Healthy for You?

CancerWise - February 2007

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be looking forward to all the kisses you will receive – chocolate kisses, that is. You may find yourself rationalizing that chocolate is healthy, because after all, chocolate contains “those flavonoid things.” However, as you may guess, there is more to the story.

Know the facts on flavonoids and free radicals

Many studies have confirmed that chocolate contains flavonoids, which occur naturally in plant-based foods (chocolate, tea, red wine, onions, cranberries, apples and peanuts).

Flavonoids contain antioxidants, which aid the cell’s defense against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals, found in the air and cigarette smoke, have been linked to cancer.

Antioxidants may slow the progression of, or even prevent, some types of cancer. Also, they play a role in improving cardiovascular health by lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

Processing strips chocolate of good elements

Unfortunately, not all chocolates are created equally. The more chocolate is processed, the more flavonoids are lost. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder have the largest amount of flavonoids. In other words, milk-chocolate Hershey Kisses® will not give the same benefit as a piece of dark chocolate.

Indulge, don’t binge, on chocolate treats

Although it is true that chocolate contains ingredients that have health benefits, that does not mean you should eat chocolate in unlimited amounts.

Chocolate candies are often high in fat, sugar and calories – all things Americans should limit in their diets.

The bottom line is that having some chocolate from time to time is reasonable and may be beneficial. But, as with everything, moderation is best.

To add foods rich in antioxidants to your diet without all of the fat and sugar, include five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

M. D. Anderson resources:

  • Antioxidants and cancer treatment

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center