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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.

(Credit: Jan Tyler/Photodisc/Getty Images)
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