With Valentine’s Day approaching, stores are lining their shelves with a variety of sugary treats; the most popular of which being chocolate. While many of us recognize this treat as a guilty pleasure that isn’t very good for us, the truth is, chocolate can actually improve our well-being. Learn more about the benefits of chocolate and why you no longer have to feel guilty about indulging this upcoming Valentine’s Day.
Since chocolate contains stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, it promotes brain activity and releases hormones that encourage feelings of joy. Consuming chocolate can even improve your overall focus in high-pressure or stressful situations. In fact, one study showed that those who consumed cocoa drinks before participating in a concentration-heavy activity had better cognitive performance, and less mental fatigue, than the group not given cocoa. So not only does chocolate release “happiness neurotransmitters” in our brains, but it also helps us with our concentration.
Protects Against Heart Disease
According to, a study in the US National Library of Medicine, the cocoa flavanol, epicatechin, has the ability to increase a person’s nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is an essential bodily chemical for promoting vascular health. By eating chocolate, your body will have a ready supply of nitric oxide, protecting you from blood clots. This protection makes your cells more responsive to growth, and in turn, makes them more responsive to signs of inflammation. Dark chocolate, in particular, is very good with promoting insulin sensitivity as well as increasing levels of nitric oxide.
Improves Brain Function
Chocolate’s positive effects on our vascular health also carry into the brain. Our brains benefit from the improved blood flow that comes with eating chocolate, giving blood-deprived sections of the brain more energy. This results in things like reduced memory loss, preventing nerve damage, and slowing overall cognitive decline.
Another benefit of chocolate is that it has a variety of powerful antioxidants; even more than several other foods known for their richness in antioxidants. Many consider raw, unprocessed cocoa beans to be a “super fruit” due to how many polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins it contains. Furthermore, dark chocolate specifically has more antioxidant activity than any fruits tested—including blueberries.
Protects Your Skin from the Sun
Not only does chocolate promote blood flow to your heart and brain, but it also energizes your skin. The Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED) is the threshold dose of UVB rays absorbed before your skin reddens after prolonged sun exposure. One study found that after consuming dark chocolate for 12 weeks, the MED more than doubled, thus giving participants a longer tolerance to the sun’s UVB rays.
Keep in mind that these benefits will be most prevalent if your treat of choice is dark chocolate. The higher the concentration of raw cocoa in a chocolate bar, the more antioxidants you’re going to get from consuming it. Milk and white chocolates have less cocoa and more sugar, so be sure to monitor your sugar consumption to prevent having a reverse effect.