Surprising Health Benefits Of Chocolate

Chocolate is viewed as an indulgent treat, but this rich food is actually full of health benefits. Dark chocolate, which has less sugar than milk or white chocolate, is where you'll find the best payoff.

"Dark chocolate has many health benefits and can definitely be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. There are many healthy ways to incorporate chocolate into your lifestyle, so find what works for you," Diane Vizthum, M.S., R.D., told Johns Hopkins Medicine.

According to Johns Hopkins, having a healthy relationship with chocolate is the key to enjoying its benefits. Many women experience feelings of guilt after enjoying this treat, but this shouldn't be the case. A 2014 study found that women who associated eating chocolate with guilt were more likely to feel helpless and out of control. They also had less success with weight management, reduced quality of life, and greater dissatisfaction with their bodies. Vizthum suggested that people stop making their chocolate cravings "taboo" and allow themselves to enjoy the treat when they feel like it.

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants

One of the main health benefits of dark chocolate is its antioxidant content. Specifically, dark chocolate contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants in the body. These can help improve heart health, prevent cancer, and help with weight loss (via Everyday Health).

"Cacao is packed with numerous antioxidants — actually more than green tea or red wine," Toby Amidor, RD, told Everyday Health. "The darker you go, the more antioxidants you'll get, but there needs to be a balance between eating palatable dark chocolate and getting the health benefits."

Some other health benefits of chocolate include a lower risk of having a stroke, improved cognition, decreased memory loss, boosted mood, improved blood sugar levels, a reduced risk of developing diabetes, and improved skin health. It's best to choose chocolate that has 70% cacao or higher, which means less added sugar and fats. Amidor also recommends that people limit their dark chocolate consumption to one ounce per day.