I love talking about chocolate. Actually, I love eating chocolate — talking about it only reminds me how much I like to eat it. But even thinking about it increases my endorphins and makes me smile. And eating chocolate perhaps just might help with a longer life.

After the holidays with so many of us trying new diets, it’s a good time to see how some “taste good” things are good for us, too.

For for those Puritans out there who want to avoid the goodness of chocolate, I’ll advise you to get what you need from industrialized pills containing flavonoids. Will it be as good? Well, it doesn’t taste as good but it might do the trick for you chocolate haters (or those unfortunate folks who can’t eat it). But on to its benefits.

Cocoa contains flavonoids, which some studies show may promote heart health and good blood pressure, while also guarding against high cholesterol levels, memory problems and even skin wrinkles. Doesn’t this sound too good to be true? It does to me, but we know flavonoids are present in other things that are good for us such as green tea, red wine, citrus products, peanuts, onions, bananas, ginkgo biloba and my least favorite green veggie of all time, kale.

Cocoa comes from the cocoa bean after removing cocoa butter. It’s used in hot chocolate and, of course, all sorts of candy and other confections. You can make a low-calorie cocoa, but removing all the calories from that piece of candy is a bit tricky.

The European Food Safety Authority granted permission to the makers of dark chocolate to claim, “Cocoa flavonoids help maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation, which contributes to normal blood flow.” And better blood flow means better health overall.

Well, if cocoa flavonoids are good enough for those on the other side of the pond, they’re good enough for me. My spin: Don’t hesitate to eat chocolate in moderation, because what is life without chocolate?

Dear Doc: Reading your column about finding an activity you like being the key to exercise, I was reminded of something my husband and I saw while traveling a couple of years ago. There was a parked freight truck and the driver had a small hoist on the back. He hung a punching bag from the hoist and used it for his exercise. – S.R. from Chewelah, Washington

Dear S.R.: How creative is that? Wow! Great idea.

This reminds me of a workshop I gave a few years ago when workers at a state agency decided that during their lunchtime, they would head to a conference room and dance for 20 minutes. They decided to dance instead of jog, and I remember thinking of the smiles on their faces compared to the average jogger. I’m not against jogging — I used to be a member of the run-as-long-as-you-can lobby — but I don’t remember running and smiling.

The trucker, hitting that punching bag, may not have been simply exercising but letting out his frustrations. It’s something that just might help all of us live a longer, sweeter life. Stay well.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.

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