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Can Chocolate Be Healthy?

woman eating chocolate

Chocolate lovers rejoice! We have good news when it comes to the chocolate front: it can actually be good for you! The only thing better than a sweet, soul-soothing snack is a guiltless one! The antioxidants in cocoa beans known as flavonols help to lower your blood pressure and keep your arteries clear, and they may even help reduce the risk of diabetes. Here are a few guidelines on what types of chocolate are best for you and how to eat it.

Go dark. Dark chocolate contains more disease-fighting flavonols than lighter, more processed chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa (sometimes spelled cacao), the higher the antioxidant level. Because there is less added sugar and milk, the calorie count is also lower! So as tasty as white chocolate may be, it doesn't contain any flavonoids or health benefits.

Skip the sugar. If sugar is listed in the first two ingredients of your chocolate, you should probably skip it. Look for another that has some form of chocolate or cocoa as the first ingredient, followed by a fruit or nut.

Check for bonus ingredients. Ok, so chocolate has these amazing flavonols that make it acceptable for us to eat it, but did you know some chocolate also contains iron and fiber? Even without the addition of fruit or nuts, some plain chocolate bars have 5 grams or more of filling fiber per serving. That's about a fifth of your daily fiber!

chocolate chips

Portion control is a virtue. No matter how healthy your chocolate may be, you still must keep your portions in check! Stick to one or 1.5 ounces per day, which results in 150 to 250 calories.

It has good-for-you fat. The main fat used in chocolate is cocoa butter, which contains oleic acid, a type of saturated fat that doesn't raise "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.

It's a de-stresser. Nestlé researchers found that women who ate 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day could more easily battle stress and anxiety. They also had lower levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone."

>> Read more: 40 Healthy Ways to Relax and De-Stress

It's better bitter. Processed chocolate contains lower levels of antioxidants than natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. Opt for non-alkalized cocoa powder in your cooking and baking. It has a bitter taste, but more health benefits!