A bar of chocolate for your Valentine isn’t just a sweet treat, it can also be a boon to the body.
The ways in which the compounds in chocolate interact with our bodies' systems, from the stomach to the heart, have been an active area of research in recent years. Several studies have found that in small amounts, dark chocolate in particular can help prevent the blood from clumping up, keep the heart healthy and even provide some anti-cancer benefits.
Scientists caution that chocolate is far from being a cure-all, of course. But what could be better than knowing such an indulgence might be good for you?
The darker, the better
Studies have shown that dark chocolate contains certain antioxidants called polyphenols that could help fight chronic inflammation of tissues in the circulatory system, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. One study of Italians showed that people who ate a moderate amount of dark chocolate daily (about 6.7 grams, or about the same amount of 1.5 Hershey kisses, though these are milk chocolate) had lower levels of a protein associated with inflammation.
Other studies have shown that chocolate, like aspirin, makes blood platelets less likely to clump together into dangerous blood vessel-blocking clots by reducing their stickiness.
Recent research has also suggested that these same antioxidants could help reduce the chances of developing cancer because they combat the cell damage that can lead to tumor growth.