Things you didn't know about dark chocolate

Chocolate has a bad reputation in the food community because most (read: milk) chocolate is packed with sugar and doesn't offer any real nutrition. But dark chocolate can actually be very healthful.

If you look at the basic building blocks of chocolate, you'll find that it's full of antioxidants and has been used in traditional medicine throughout South America for hundreds of years. Raw cacao contains potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, and has been shown to improve mental function.

White cacao (not the same thing as white chocolate, which is made from cocoa butter) comes from a rare type of cacao found in Peru. Although very expensive, these nutty-flavored nibs are flavorful enough to be eaten on their own and are packed with antioxidants.

Though raw cacao is very good for you, it’s not sweet like the chocolate you find in candy bars at the grocery store, which has been roasted and made more palatable with sugar and oftentimes vanilla. This means that you shouldn’t take these health benefits as a go-ahead to eat a bar of store-bought chocolate every day. Try to stick with raw dark chocolate and consume it in moderation; just a few bites a day will satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard. Roasting chocolate at high temperatures removes a lot of the benefits, so try to find some raw chocolate bars that don’t add lots of sugar.

You’ll notice that bars of dark chocolate have percentages on the packaging; these numbers reference the proportion of cacao in the bar. The higher the percentage, the less sugar (and other flavorings) added and more health benefits the chocolate has.

Dark chocolate is a great choice for baking, as it's not overly sweet. Try it in all kinds of baked goods, like dark chocolate cookies and banana bread, healthier snacks like kale chips, and even dark hot chocolate. Click here to see even more dark chocolate recipes.

Keep reading to find out why you should indulge in a little bit of dark chocolate every day.

1. Bad cholesterol reduction

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Along with healthy diet and exercise, dark chocolate may help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL).

2. Blood pressure lowering

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Eating a few bites of dark chocolate can improve your blood pressure with polyphenols, which help increase the oxygen flow through your arteries.

3. Calming effects

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Chocolate produces serotonin, which releases lots of good feelings in your brain and allows you to de-stress naturally.

4. Heart-healthy

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The antioxidants in dark chocolate help prevent heart disease by improving blood flow and protecting against hardening of the arteries. Choose dark chocolate with high cocoa content for maximum antioxidants.

Discover more reasons why you should be eating more dark chocolate.

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