What is the most popular gift on Valentine's Day? You guessed it, chocolate. In fact, 58 million pounds of chocolate is sold in the U.S. for the this holiday. That’s a lot of bonbons!  If you love chocolate as I do, you were thrilled when reports came out that dark chocolate is actually good for us. Well, there is more to the story.

Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, which are also found in fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Dark chocolate has been linked to reducing the risk of diabetes, preventing blood clots, improving memory, lowering cholesterol, and even preventing some types of cancer. However, a standard bar of dark chocolate with 70 percent to 85 percent cacao contains about 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar. Milk chocolate contains roughly the same number of calories but twice the sugar.

However, you might be able to find reduced-sugar versions of dark chocolate. So bottom line, of all the sweets you could have on Valentine's Day, dark chocolate is probably your best choice. There is one caveat; however, chocolate is a treat and not really our go-to option for improving our heart health. Here are some of the major benefits of dark chocolate...

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    Promotes Heart Health

    Dark chocolate contains an ingredient called flavanol. This ingredient has shown to assist with lowering blood pressure. It also is shown to improve blood flow to your brain and your heart. The flavanol in dark chocolate also reduces the stickiness in blood platelets. This results in a reduced risk of strokes and blood clots.

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    Improves Skin

    The flavanol in dark chocolate is key to all of these improvements. Experts have found through research that the flavanol helps absorb UV light. This results improved skin texture and hydration as well as an additional increase in blood flow to your skin.

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    Boosts Mood

    It's no question that chocolate makes us all happy. However, research has shown that dark chocolate consumption enhances endorphins throughout your body. This means that eating dark chocolate puts us in a better mood, but the endorphins help to release a long lasting feeling of pleasure. It's a win-win!

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