To paraphrase a line from the 2003 cult classic The Room, chocolate has long been considered a symbol of love. But while the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac is, unfortunately, nothing more than a myth, chocolate does have a few documented health benefits, from lower blood pressure to a speedier post-workout recovery. This Valentine’s Day, check out these 5 health benefits of chocolate, so you and your partner can enjoy snacking on chocolate-covered strawberries guilt-free.
CHOCOLATE HAS BEEN LINKED TO HEART HEALTH.
Cocoa beans are rich in plant nutrients called flavonoids. Dark chocolate, in particular, is a great source of flavanols, which has antioxidant properties that may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Consuming moderate amounts of chocolate has also been associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat condition that can increase your risk for a stroke, heart failure, and other heart complications, Harvard experts say.
IT CAN BOOST YOUR POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY.
Drinking chocolate milk after you exercise may help repair your muscles, research suggests. In fact, a study from the University of Texas at Austin found that athletes who drank low-fat chocolate milk post-workout instead of a carb-based sports drink or a calorie-free drink had significantly more power and rode faster. (Whether it’s a good idea to chug a glass of chocolate milk after an intense workout is another question entirely.)
CHOCOLATE HAS BEEN LINKED TO HEIGHTENED BRAIN POWER.
A 2014 study found that adults who took a high flavanol cocoa supplement for three months performed better on memory tests than participants who consumed a low flavanol cocoa supplement. Additionally, a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that places where chocolate consumption is the highest boast the most Nobel Prize recipients — so if Nobel Prize winners are eating more chocolate, then maybe we should be, too.
IT (MIGHT) CLEAR UP YOUR SKIN.
Contrary to what your mom may have told you in high school, eating chocolate can actually improve your skin, with some research suggesting it can help protect you from harmful UV rays. That said, other researchers have reported that eating more chocolate may increase your risk of acne, so the jury is ultimately still out on this one.
CHOCOLATE HAS BEEN FOUND TO HELP REDUCE CRAVINGS.
Eating dark chocolate may help to keep the munchies at bay, according to one small study by University of Copenhagen researchers. That’s particularly true if you’re craving sweet, salty, or fatty foods.
By Mary Brophy Marcus