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Gourmet Chocolate Gifts for Valentine

Remember when you were a kid and couldn't wait for Halloween - dreams of candy swirling in your head? Valentines Day is like that for chocoholics dreaming of gourmet chocolate gifts. Chocolate lovers dreams come true when you also tell them it's good for their heart.

In a recent Japanese study, researchers found that dark chocolate rich in flavonoids can actually improve coronary blood flow. People who ate 550 milligrams of dark chocolate a day showed vast improvement of coronary blood flow after just two weeks compared to participants who ate white chocolate without flavonoids. Flavonoids are what gives chocolate it's antioxidant power. Antioxidants help protect the body from damage to our cells by free radicals - formed by environmental pollution and normal cellular activity. These antioxidants are what helps keep plaques from forming in our arteries. Good news for gourmet chocolate lovers.

Dark chocolate contains the most flavonoids because it is the less processed than milk chocolate or white chocolate. Flavonoids also give dark chocolate a stronger flavor. As a cocoa bean goes through fermentation, alkalizing and roasting (more processing), more flavonoids get lost.

Other chocolate research has shown dark chocolate and cocoa powder may raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels by up to 10%, while keeping bad cholesterol (LDL) levels at bay. Stearic acid, one of the fats in chocolate, can actually boost HDL levels according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And although, one would expect bad cholesterol levels to rise because of the increased fat intake, this was not the case. This is more good news for chocoholics.

They say that laughter is the best medicine, chocolate in moderation may be a close second.

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