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Column - A passion for chocolate

I am passionate about chocolate. Chocolate is my mantra, my nirvana. The darker it is, the better. I love it. I will eat most anything containing that delicious, dark delicacy.

I am passionate about chocolate. Chocolate is my mantra, my nirvana. The darker it is, the better. I love it. I will eat most anything containing that delicious, dark delicacy.

As a kid, I used to sneak into the pantry, grab a box of chocolate pudding mix and a spoon and scoot up to my bedroom.

There, I'd grab a couple spoonfuls, toss them in my mouth and let them slowly melt away. It was awesome. I'd stash the box and spoon under the bed, along with my half-eaten bag of chocolate chips, saving them for later when I needed a fix.

Then there was my own personal recipe for chocolate milk - ice, cold juice of the cow, filled with Hershey's chocolate. And I mean filled. I'd only pour about a half-glass of milk, then begin to pour in the Hershey's, stirring as I went, until the glass was nearly full. It makes me thirsty just thinking of it.

And if I were really in a hurry for that chocolate rush, I'd just squirt the Hershey's directly into my mouth.

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At my first newspaper job, I used to take a lunch break at the local five-and-dime, snatching up four or five different candy bars, then return to work where I'd wash them all down with a cup or two of piping hot joe.

It's a wonder I didn't turn out as wide as I am tall!

So the other day, when I was cruising around on the Internet, I found several articles on chocolate diets. I quickly dismissed it after finding out some included pills filled with cocoa and others were allowing me to have "up to one ounce" of chocolate a day. Forget that.

But I did come across something else. Chocolate - yes, chocolate - can keep me healthy. Yes!

And, in my case, the darker, the better, which, from all the studies out there, seems to be the best form for a healthier me.

There are several studies that show how chocolate can help lower blood pressure - a personal favorite of mine - and improve my chances of reducing heart disease and maybe even certain cancers.

There are plenty of new studies showing that cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, can help lower blood pressure, help muscles recover from exercise, improve skin and provide antioxidants.

So how else can chocolate make me healthier?

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Well, it makes you happier, especially if you're a woman. And, if you're happy, you're more likely to stick with a healthy eating plan.

Chocolate can calm stress and brighten your mood. And stress can cause weight gain, so, relax away.

And, according to one British study, it can even be better for you than kissing! Their study showed that when tested on young couples in their 20s, it raised their heart rate and brain activity for even longer than that smooch from a sweetie.

There's probably a way to incorporate chocolate into my diet for every meal. After all, it is a vegetable. It comes from cocoa beans and aren't beans a veggie?

It also has some dairy properties as well. I know they use milk fat and cocoa butter in candy bars.

And I can dip a multitude of foods in chocolate (making them even better).

There are chocolate covered coffee beans, good for my morning jolt.

Then there are the chocolate covered bananas, strawberries, oranges and pineapples, which would make for a wonderful breakfast treat. And after a quick peruse of the Internet, I found you could pair those with a side of chocolate dipped bacon, and you're all set.

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You could snack on pretzels, Fritos and Cheez-Its dipped in chocolate for a mid-morning or afternoon snack, then for lunch, break out the tomatoes, carrots and onions with a creamy dark coating.

Spice up your evening meal with some chocolate-sauced ribs, shrimp or chicken, and if you're a seafood lover, you could check out the recipes for sushi, squid or shrimp with chocolate.

Close out your evening with popcorn, potato chips or a little chocolate covered beef jerky. Heck, they even dip bugs in chocolate!

I found a great quote online as well. "Given enough chocolate and coffee, I could rule the world." - Author unknown.

Opinion by Lori Mork
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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.