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5 healthy benefits of dark chocolate

Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet.
/ Source: TODAY

Who doesn't love chocolate? As a nutritionist, I'm happy to tell you this sweet treat can be part of a healthy diet ... In moderation. Too much of a good thing can certainly outweigh the benefits, but there are a few good reasons to support your chocolate habit.

When it comes to any food group, there is always going to be good and bad research, new and old. What’s important is that we take into consideration the quality of the research and our own specific lifestyle and health concerns when implementing health information.

Fortunately, there has been quite a bit of tried and true evidence suggesting the benefits of chocolate when you choose a type that is at least 70% cacao, and incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle. You. Are. Welcome.

Here are a few of the many chocolate benefits:

1. It may relieve stress.

In addition to stress-managing tools like meditation, dark chocolate has also been linked to stress-relief. It contributes to producing the feel-good hormone serotonin and contains magnesium, which is linked to reducing anxiety.

2. Dark chocolate may reduce inflammation.

Cacao beans contain protein, fiber and are a great source of minerals like iron and magnesium. They’re also rich in powerful antioxidants, particularly flavonoids like catechin, epicatechin and procyanidins. These are your body’s protectors against “bad guy” free radicals. Antioxidants combat damage caused by free radicals that contributes to aging, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

3. It could help manage blood sugar levels.

Some studies have suggested chocolate can reduce insulin resistance, and its healthy fats also slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing sugar spikes.

4. Chocolate may support your heart health.

Studies like this one have shown an association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of heart disease.

5. It satisfies your sweet tooth.

A life without desserts? Not in my book. A square of dark chocolate can be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth while reaping the benefits of dark chocolate. If you’re ready to get baking, these walnut chia thumbprint cookies are an excellent post-dinner treat, and yes, I’ve even been known to add a few dark chocolate chunks to my peanut butter oatmeal.