Dark chocolate is certainly a delicious treat that we’ve long been told we don’t have to feel guilty about. These benefits of dark chocolate will keep you reaching for your favorite bar and feeling great about it, too.

Chocolate Can Lower Blood Pressure

One of the first studies to highlight the benefits of dark chocolate came out in 2003 and reported that eating dark chocolate daily could help lower blood pressure in people with moderately high numbers. The study, from Germany, had participants eat 100 grams of dark chocolate daily for two weeks and found an average drop of 5 points in systolic blood pressure and two points for diastolic (that’s the top number and the bottom, respectively).

Other studies have shown that eating a little dark chocolate can increase blood flow, and a later study in Germany found that limiting participants to just 30 calories of dark chocolate a day—about the equivalent of a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss—could still lower blood pressure over time.

It’s Also Good for the Heart

Eating dark chocolate regularly can help reduce the buildup of plaque in the arteries, reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by more than 50 percent, and even reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease among elderly people over the course of many years.

This makes sense because of the blood pressure lowering capabilities of chocolate and its link to lower levels of bad cholesterol.

Dark Chocolate is Full of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a powerful way to protect the body from the effects of aging just by eating healthy foods, and dark chocolate turns out to have a ton of these protective molecules. Researchers found that people who ate dark chocolate had more antioxidants in their bloodstream than people who ate milk chocolate, or who chased their dark chocolate with milk.

Delicious and Nutritious

There are many healthy nutrients in dark chocolate that can help qualify it as a healthy choice. An ounce of dark chocolate has 2 grams of fiber and is a decent source of iron, magnesium, copper and manganese; trace elements that can be difficult to pick up in your diet.

That little serving also has 1.4 grams of protein.

It Makes You Feel Good

I probably don’t need to tell you that having a little chocolate at the end of a hard day makes you feel better, but there’s a scientific basis for that boost. A chemical in dark chocolate, phenylethylamine, boosts endorphins and makes you feel similar to the feeling of falling in love.

The small amount of caffeine in dark chocolate can give you a mental boost, too, making you feel more focused.

It Might Make You Look Better

Those antioxidants and mood boosters in dark chocolate can reduce feelings of stress and release of stress hormones, which may make your skin look better. Stress hormones can break down collagen in the skin, which makes wrinkles appear more prominent.

Flavanols in dark chocolate may also make skin healthier, improve blood flow to the skin, giving you a healthier glow, and protect against sun damage.

It Could Be Brain Food, Too

Eating dark chocolate has also shown increased blood flow to the brain, which can make you sharper and reduce the effects of aging on the brain. Again, caffeine may help boost brain power when you eat chocolate, too.

It’s Better for Your Blood Sugar

Even dark chocolate has a fair bit of sugar in it, so you should keep servings small or take something out of your diet to make up for the calories you consume in chocolate. But there’s one more bit of good news, and that is that flavanoids in dark chocolate can help reduce insulin resistance, which can in turn prevent type 2 diabetes.

Did you know chocolate also makes your teeth healthy? Read on for more benefits.

Featured photo credit: Cocoa Powder on spoon and Dark Chocolate background via Shutterstock

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