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  » Medical News Archive  »  Can't Live Without Chocolate?
No problem. Scientists may one day claim you need the stuff to be at your healthiest.

It's a theory growing from a study of the diets of a small Indian tribe in the Panamanian islands. High blood pressure is virtually unheard of within the group. And tribe members drink three or four 10-ounce servings of cocoa per day. Coincidence? (see below v)

Killer Compounds
The Panamanian tribe doesn't drink run-of-the-mill cocoa. Because of the gentle way they process their cocoa beans, their cocoa is chock-full of epicatechin, a flavonoid that helps widen and relax blood vessels. If the tribe's lack of high blood pressure (as well as other diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) does turn out to be because of epicatechin, researchers speculate that the flavonoid could one day be given vitamin status.

Other Potential Reasons
But before you buy stock in Hershey's, there's still research to be done. The tribe members also eat lots of fish and fruit, and their diet or their lifestyle -- or both -- may be part of the lack-of-disease equation. So far, researchers have ruled out genetics.

Bottom Line
What remains true: Flavonoids are good for your heart; lots of research points to this. But dark chocolate is just about your only hope for chocolate that hasn't had its flavonoids completely destroyed by processing. And if you need to cut calories to lose weight, a little bit of chocolate goes a long way.
But this sweet treat has chocolate's health-boosting compounds without the fat.

Health-Happy Apples
Reach for the right apple to get ahead of the nutrition game.
Researchers recently assessed the antioxidant capacity of eight different apple varieties and found Red Delicious apples to be highest in two powerful flavonoids, epicatechin and procyanidin. These flavonoids are especially abundant in apple peels, so wash them well and eat the skins.

All apples pack a health punch, regardless of variety. Although much of the nutritional punch of apples is found in the skin, certain nutrients reside in the flesh, too. In recent studies, researchers found two powerful flavonoids in Red Delicious apples, but they were mainly in the skins. Another compound with strong antioxidant activity -- hydroxycinnamic acid -- was found in the flesh. Two phenols found in the apples, epicatechins and procyanidins, have superior antioxidant capacity and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other conditions. Before you eat your apple, wash it thoroughly under running water with a vegetable brush to remove wax and contaminants.
RealAge Benefit: Getting the right amount of antioxidants through diet or supplements can make your RealAge 6 years younger.
    SOURCE:  Originally published on 07/27/2005.