This article was originally published on canadianliving.com.
Good news for chocolate lovers: You don’t need to feel bad about indulging in your guilty pleasure.
Chocolate should no longer be deemed a “guilty” pleasure because, it’s true, eating chocolate has health-boosting benefits. Yes—adding a little bit of dark chocolate to your daily diet can actually help improve your health. Here’s how.
1. Chocolate can improve your mental performance
A team of researchers looked at recent data from almost 1,000 participants and found that those who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on cognitive tasks than those who ate chocolate less frequently. But watch out—eating too much chocolate (unfortunately, there is such thing) can cause high levels of cholesterol.
2. Chocolate helps protect women’s skin
Though this definitely doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen, long-term ingestion of the antioxidants found in cocoa (called flavanols) can offer some protection from UV damage.
3. Chocolate improves your mood
Tryptophan, a plentiful amino acid that is found in chocolate, can help with depression or improving your mood in general according to this study. Chocolate even contains a “love chemical” (phenylethylamine), which can spike dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.
4. Chocolate improves vision
Chocolate’s ability to improve vision is closely related to the way it improves blood flow. The flavanols that lower your bad cholesterol and blood pressure also protect the blood vessels in your eyes.
5. Chocolate prevents memory decline
Scientists found a sweet way for older people to ward off memory loss and dementia: a dairy-based drink mix filled with cocoa flavanols. When consumed regularly, the mix promotes memory and learning by keeping the blood flowing in working areas of the brain.
6. Chocolate can help with weight loss
If you’re having a hard time cutting sweets out of your diet, the good news is you can keep a little dark chocolate around. A recent study found that consuming dark chocolate lowers the desire to eat something sweet, salty or fatty. Indulging in a small amount of dark chocolate—not milk chocolate—every now and then should make it a little easier to stick to your diet.