Health and fitness: Is chocolate really a healthy snack?

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By Kim Lazarus

There has been a lot of publicity in recent months suggesting chocolate may have health benefits.

Chocolate has been linked to cholesterol reduction and antioxidant benefits.

Dark chocolate contains approximately eight times more antioxidants than that found in strawberries. Antioxidants counteract the effects of free radicals in the body.

Free radicals in our bodies may arise during metabolic functions but also can be a reaction to the body's immune systems cells trying to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides are also contributors in free radical formation.

Free radicals are molecules that have been split leaving an odd unpaired electron. Free radicals are unstable but looking to become stable by capturing electrons. When this occurs another free radical forms and a chain reaction takes place that can cause disruption that can affect living cells.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E are considered substances to protect the body from the process of cellular destruction. When free radicals are present in the body, there exists the opportunity for the formation of cancer and heart disease to occur.

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