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On average, nine out of ten people love chocolate. While it tastes good, there are also some amazing health benefits to this sweet treat.

Story by Ann Butenas

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”  ~ Katharine Hepburn

If you are familiar with the legendary actress of film, television, and stage, then you know the late Katharine Hepburn, recognized as the greatest female star of classic cinema, was a rare beauty, inside and out. Her career in Hollywood spanned six decades. Sure, she had the wit, brains, looks, and charisma to her credit. But maybe her reference to chocolate here had something to do with her overall success, too. It is at least worth looking into, don’t you agree?

It is the rare individual who doesn’t enjoy chocolate. Believe it or not, you can actually have a healthy relationship with the sweet treat. Sure, people give it a bad rap by talking about its sugar and high-fat content (and we must take those talking points into consideration) and that it has been associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, acne, obesity, and other ailments. However, chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, offers numerous health benefits and can be very nutritious when consumed in moderation.



Celebrate World Chocolate Day

Now you have a great reason to enjoy some chocolate. Every July 7th, World Chocolate Day is celebrated. It was on this day in 1550 that chocolate was first introduced to Europe. Since 2009, chocolate lovers around the globe have discovered new ways to enjoy this special day. You can do the same. Consider hosting a chocolate tasting party or learning about chocolates from around the world.  Cozy up with a piece of dark chocolate and watch the classic film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or even enjoy a meal at your favorite restaurant and order a tasty chocolate dessert.

But first, let’s discover the healthy benefits of enjoying an occasional – and moderate – indulgence of some delicious dark chocolate.


Good nutrition from dark chocolate

If you want to get plenty of minerals, dark chocolate checks many boxes, including copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. The darker and purer the chocolate, the better the health benefit. To break it down, dark chocolate has about 50-90% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate has about 10-30%, while white chocolate is just pure cocoa butter and offers no health benefits.

Dark chocolate also has antioxidants and flavonoids and is very rich in epicatechin, catechin, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids. These are big and fancy words, so what do all of these do? Well, they go to work protecting the cells in your body from inflammation and can improve your immune and cardiovascular health.

Additionally, dark chocolate contains theobromine, which is known to boost energy levels and give you that overall good feeling. Eat a bite of dark chocolate, and you may soon find yourself in a better mood and perhaps even more mentally alert.


What about the risks of chocolate?

As mentioned previously, eating chocolate within sensible limits is key. Remember that it is high in calories, which won’t tip the scales in your favor if you eat too much of it. Aim for one ounce of dark chocolate about three times a week. If you eat too much dark chocolate, you run the risk of an elevated heart rate, irritability, diarrhea, and dehydration. As with anything, just because it has some health benefits doesn’t mean you can and should over-indulge.


A few key take-aways

Dark chocolate is good for the circulatory system. It can improve blood flow and potentially lower your blood pressure. It may also reduce the risk of a stroke.

Dark chocolate can improve brain cognition and mood. A study done in the United Kingdom suggested eating dark chocolate can improve both visual and cognitive functions.

Dark chocolate is loaded with minerals. One ounce contains 25% copper, 2% calcium, 19% iron, 16% magnesium, 6% potassium, and 6% zinc.

So, for a healthier and happier you, keep a smile on your face, happiness in your heart, positive thoughts in your mind, and a bit of dark chocolate on the side!

Sources: nationaldaycalendar.com, webmd.com, chopra.com
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