PUBLISHED: 12:29 PM on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Lighten up - dark chocolate is good for you
The scientific name for chocolate is "theobroma cacao," meaning food of the gods, but it's also good for mortals.

This Halloween, when your little ghosts and goblins bring home their loot, don't feel too guilty about selecting a piece of dark chocolate as a treat for yourself. It's healthier than you might think.

Dark chocolate does have calories, fat and sugar, but a new study in an American Heart Association publication titled "Hypertension Journal" suggests that the flavonols in dark chocolate appear to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and also may have benefits for cholesterol and insulin sensitivity.

Dark chocolate, also known as bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, has an intense flavor. Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavonols, which are naturally occurring phytonutrients.

These flavonols also are found in fruits and vegetables, red wine and tea.

Remember, a balanced diet with exercise is the key to heart health.

Chocolate isn't a substitute for prescribed medication, but it doesn't hurt to enjoy an occasional treat, especially at Halloween.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

25 chocolate wafer cookies, finely crushed

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix cookie crumbs and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar.

2. In medium bowl, whisk honey and peanut butter until well combined. Add to cookie-crumb mixture, and stir well. (Mixture may be crumbly.)

3. With your hands, shape mixture into 1-inch balls. (Mixture should hold together as it is shaped.)

4. Set balls aside at room temperature until ready to serve or store in airtight container at room temperature for two to three days. Before serving, roll balls in remaining 2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar.

Yield: Makes 36 pieces.

Nutritional analysis per piece: Calories, 58; carbohydrates, 10 grams; total fat, 2 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; protein, 1 gram; and sodium, 40 milligrams.

Melissa Moore, R.D., L.D., is a registered dietitian on Topeka, Kan.