According to Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald:
Most of you probably don't need an excuse to enjoy fine chocolate, but just in case you do, here are some healthy reasons to indulge yourself a little:
1. High in antioxidants: Chocolate is high in flavonoids, an antioxidant in the polyphenol category. Antioxidants can help to prevent cell damage and have been linked to prevention of cancer and other degenerative diseases.
2. Helps with cholesterol: Scientists at Penn State found that dark chocolate and flavonoid-rich cocoa powder reduced LDL ("bad" cholesterol) oxidation.
3. Reduces inflammation: An Italian study showed that when volunteers ingested small amounts of dark chocolate, their levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) decreased.
4. Lowers blood pressure: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that dark chocolate had an effect on lowering blood pressure.
5. Helps with mood: Chocolate contains tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, which can help with depression. Research also shows chocolate can increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA) known as the "love chemical."
6. Improves blood flow: Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way as aspirin. Nobody is suggesting to replace your aspirin with chocolate, but the research is compelling.
7. It's delicious! Research shows that enjoying food and life is beneficial for your health.
It seems that the health benefits of chocolate come in packages that don't include nougat, caramel, or high amounts of sugar.Most studies were done using cocoa powder or dark chocolate. Experts suggest that adding small amounts (a one ounce piece a few times a week) of dark chocolate to a healthy diet that includes antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will give you a variety of phytochemicals (beneficial elements of plants) that have proven health benefits.