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DENVER — For many of us chocolate is a guilty pleasure. But it may not be as bad for you as you think.

In fact some nutritionists say dark chocolate actually has some health benefits.

Julie Pech is a nutritionist who makes and sells all natural chocolate at her store called The Chocolate Therapist in downtown Littleton.

She wrote a book by the same title and says the main ingredient in chocolate — the cocoa bean — is very rich in antioxidants that may lower the risk of certain diseases.

“The more antioxidants you have in the system, the less damage you are going to have on the cellular level,” Pech said.

Studies show dark chocolate can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by widening blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and reducing the threat of clotting.

It could help prevent diabetes, and help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

“It helps get more blood and oxygen to the brain,” Pech said.

To get the benefits, the chocolate should ideally be 70 percent dark, and not mixed with other unhealthy foods.

Pech suggests eating about an ounce every day.