Indulging in Guilty Pleasures Is Actually Good for You (in Small Doses)

Shopping, chocolate, sunshine and even gossiping can be healthy (in moderation). Find out when to indulge and when you're overdoing it (13 Photos)

Jill Provost on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:40AM

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Indulging in Guilty Pleasures Is Actually Good for You (in Small Doses)

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Why it’s OK: Sweet on chocolate? Don’t feel guilty. Heart-healthy chemicals in cocoa called flavonoids decrease inflammation and help keep blood vessels pliable, preventing the arteries from hardening, says Monica Bearden, R.D., co-author of Chocolate -- A Healthy Passion. Dark chocolate also helps lower blood pressure, reduces the risk of stroke, raises “good” HDL cholesterol and boosts blood flow to the brain.

When to indulge: Unfortunately for chocoholics, you don’t need a box of truffles to reap the benefits of chocolate. In fact, you can get all its perks just by indulging in fat-free cocoa powder. But where’s the fun there? To keep your heart healthy and your waistline slim, nibble on no more than 10 grams of chocolate a day, says Bearden. To get an idea of what that looks like, two Hershey kisses is about 9 grams. To max out on the benefits, choose dark chocolate that has at least 50 percent cocoa, says Bearden.

Don’t overdo it: Even though flavonoids are good for your ticker, chocolate is loaded with calories, sugar and fat -- it’s not exactly a health food.

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