This Valentine’s Day, show your loved one you care about them – and their health – by giving them the gift of dark chocolate.
Besides its delicious flavor, dark chocolate contains nutrients that could benefit many aspects of your health, from your blood pressure to your memory. It’s a traditional Valentine’s Day gift for good reason – it tastes great and can help you feel great, too.
Check out these four ways that dark chocolate could support your loved one’s health.
1. Dark Chocolate Could Protect Their Heart Health
Flavanols are chemicals found in plants, including the cacao tree. The cacao tree grows the cocoa beans that are ground and used to create all types of chocolate, from the deepest dark chocolate bars to baking cocoa.
Though flavanols can appear in apples, grapes or other fruits, cocoa beans have the most flavanols of any food. Dark chocolate, which is 50 to 90 percent cocoa solids, contains two to three times as many flavanols as milk chocolate, which typically contains more milk and sugar than actual cocoa solids.
Why are flavanols important? Growing research shows that flavanols can benefit your heart health by relaxing the lining of your blood vessels. Relaxed blood vessels mean better blood flow and lower blood pressure. [1,2]
Scientists have found evidence in several cultures that flavanols help heart health. One observational study followed the Kuna Indians in South America, a tribe that drank up to five cups of flavanol-rich cocoa a day. Members of the tribe rarely suffered from high blood pressure and had lower risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and diabetes. However, when they moved to cities, away from the traditions of drinking cocoa, their dark chocolate (and flavanol) intake went down – and their blood pressure went up. 
2. Dark Chocolate Benefits the Brain
Flavanols not only help the heart, new evidence shows they could also boost brain function, as detailed in a recent review. 
One study showed that young adults had better memory and reaction time two hours after eating dark chocolate compared to two hours after eating white chocolate (which has little to no flavanols).
Another study found that older adults who took flavanol supplements for three months had better memory than adults who did not take flavanol supplements.
And yet another study used imaging tests or electroencephalograms (EEGs) to show evidence that drinking cocoa beverages led to better nerve function, blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain.
Though these studies had great results for chocolate lovers, they need to be repeated to be sure that flavanols really do benefit the brain.
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3. Dark Chocolate Has Less Sugar Than Milk Chocolate
The one big health drawback of chocolate is its sugar content and number of calories. Unfortunately, eating too much chocolate can lead to weight gain.
Luckily, dark chocolate lets you enjoy the benefits of cocoa, flavanols and other ingredients while eating substantially less sugar. You’ll get to enjoy a purer, richer chocolate taste for fewer calories and carbohydrates.
Dark chocolate can even increase your feelings of satiety (feeling full after a meal). Eating a small amount of solid dark chocolate at the end of a meal could possibly keep you from reaching for a snack later in the day. Even when you eat a modest amount of chocolate, you could end up eating fewer calories during the day.
To get the full benefits of dark chocolate for fewer calories, consume dark chocolate that is 70 percent cocoa solids or higher. You should also choose pure dark chocolate bars or chocolate that has healthy ingredients like almonds mixed in. If you’re eating dark chocolate for purely health benefits, you should avoid bars with caramel, marshmallow or other sugary ingredients. If you like dark chocolate with these ingredients, you might consider enjoying it with an enzyme blend that supports healthy blood sugar levels and glucose metabolism, like Reduce™. You can also try mixing cacao nibs or small pieces of pure chocolate into your milk, cereal or oatmeal in the morning for extra benefits.
4. Dark Chocolate is Rich in Nutrients
It’s not just the flavanols that have health benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in other nutrients that can benefit your health, including:
- Iron that’s used to create new red blood cells, connective tissue and hormones
- Copper to help your body make new red blood cells
- Magnesium, which can lower your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes
- Zinc, which can boost your immune system function
- Phosphorus for bone and teeth health
When part of a healthy, varied diet, dark chocolate helps your body get nutrients that support healthy function and growth. Another way to supply your body with the nutrients it needs is by taking a high quality, whole food multivitamin. One example would be The Enzyme Nutrition™ Multivitamins.
Though dark chocolate can be bitter, it may offer sweet health benefits. For Valentine’s Day, or any day, take care of your loved one’s heart, memory and more by skipping the flowers and doubling down on the dark chocolate gifts.
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1. Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NK. Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans. J Hypertens. 2003;21:2281-6.
2. Engler MB, Engler MM, Chen CY, et al. Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23:197-204.
3. Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND, McCullough ML. Flavanols, the Kuna, cocoa consumption, and nitric oxide. J Am Soc Hypertens. 2009;3:105-12.
4. Socci V, Tempesta D, Desideri G, De Gennaro L, Ferrara M. Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids. Front Nutr. 2017 May 16;4:19.