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  • okay Weekly Newsletter. you're looking for any excuse to indulge in chocolate without feeling post-pleasure guilt: you're in luck! July 7th is National Chocolate Day and studies show this sweet indulgence is loaded with flavonoids and anti-oxidants known to open clogged arteries, keep heart disease at bay and even improve your mental acuity. What's not to like?

Columbus Discovered America...and Chocolate!

When Christopher Columbus was offered a sip of chocolate drink or 'xocoatl' by the Aztecs, he didn't like the taste, but" target="_blank">Spanish conquistador Don Hernan Cortes not only loved the drink, he knew he had a valuable commodity on his hands and loaded his return ship with cacao beans. He was right: people loved the chocolate drink, but it was a pleasure afforded only the very rich. Eventually, the secret recipe got out and before long chocolate was all the rage in Europe and America.

Popular Food with Healthy Benefits

The popularity of chocolate has prompted hundreds of medical studies to examine the effects on the human body. Dark chocolate, containing at least 70% cacao, possesses seemingly magical powers in opening arteries, minimizing insulin resistance and reducing morbidity. And that's just for starters.

For menopausal women facing the double whammy of increased cardiovascular risk and runaway diabetes, there are encouraging results. In one study the test subjects strictly adhered to the program—a clever way of saying they didn't mind eating chocolate every day of the testing period! The results showed that flavonoids, the active ingredient in chocolate, reduced insulin resistance while minimizing the risk of heart disease in post-menopausal diabetic women, actually prolonging their lives over the next 10 years of daily consumption. How much better can it get? As it turns out—a lot!

The bioactive-mechanistic properties of chocolate and nitric oxides assist in vascular dilation, which is a fancy way of saying that chocolate helps reduces LDL or 'lousy' cholesterol, particularly in overweight older adults. A sweet morsel not loaded with post-consumption guilt. Sign me up!

My personal favorite involves 'cocoa intervention' as a means to fight heart disease. In this study there were two control groups: one given skim milk and cocoa and the other just skim milk. Surprise! The group given the chocolate milk showed that the 39 compounds linked to the intake of cocoa minimizes free radicals, known to cause cancer and raise the risk of heart disease.

Just Plain Fun!

Laughing is good for the soul...and body. Chocolate has a tendency to bring on the fun. We channeled our inner Lucille Ball in Menopause Mondays with a clip of Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates in their mouths when they get behind at the factory! Who hasn't had a chuckle at that?

But Wait—There's More!

There are additional mental benefits! Plagued by losing that thought before it finds it way from your brain to your mouth? Chocolate's absorbed flavonoids impact the parts of your brain connected with learning and memory. When these flavonoids interact with brain cells, neuroprotective and neuromodulatory proteins kick into high gear to assisting with brain connectivity through increased blood flow. This reaction has been shown to slow aging, dementia and disease-related cognitive decline.

From a psychological standpoint, another study looked at people who took the time to savor chocolate and actually tied in ritualistic behavior with goal-oriented benefits. In other words—relaxing and enjoying said chocolate works about as well as anything else!

So, after the barbeques and fireworks are over, take heart—just three more days until National Chocolate Day! Give yourself permission to indulge and enjoy that luxurious treat. It's really all good!

Suffering in Silence is Out! Reaching Out is In!

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