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If chocolate is one of your favorites, you don’t have to feel guilty indulging — Instead, you can take advantage of many of its health benefits!

The darker you go, the more benefits you get, so aim for a bar with at least 70% cacao. Milk chocolate has a lower percentage of cacao solids with higher sugar and fat content; white chocolate contains no cacao solids at all. This means milk chocolate and white chocolate are not as beneficial.

That’s because Cocoa contains antioxidants called polyphenols and flavanols which protect the heart. Flavanols stimulate the cells in the walls of your arteries to produce nitric oxide which helps the arteries to relax, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure.

Polyphenols and theobromine (a chemical similar to caffeine) found in dark chocolate lower the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise “good” cholesterol (HDL). These compounds also reduce the amount of LDL which is oxidized. Overall, this reduces the amount of plaque buildup in your arteries.

The antioxidants in dark chocolate also protect your cells from free radical damage. Free radicals lead to oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and diseases including cancer.

Dark chocolate flavanol increases the blood supply to the brain, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Cacao also contains stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine which are linked to better brain function and improved cognition.

Research has shown that dark chocolate can curb your appetite by stimulating hormones that signal to your brain that you’re full. Dark chocolate can also reduce your craving for salty and sweet snacks.

The antioxidants in dark chocolate protect the skin from being damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Dark chocolate is also rich in minerals and vitamins such as iron, magnesium, and zinc which are good for your skin.

A study has shown that those who ate dark chocolate more than five times per week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease.

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