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There is one affliction that a lot of people can't get rid of--a sweet tooth. You might just really enjoy the taste of sweets but eating too much of them can cause wear and tear on your teeth. It's best to enjoy sweets in moderation and choose the healthiest option possible. Did you know that not all chocolate is created equal? Dark chocolate offers more good health benefits (and fewer bad benefits), so you should reach for it when a craving strikes.

Dark Chocolate Antioxidants

Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals in your body and prevent oxidative stress, which is the damage that is inflicted upon your cells and tissues. Over time, oxidative stress contributes to the development of a variety of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer and more.

Dark chocolate contains several compounds, such as flavanols and polyphenols, that possess antioxidant properties. In fact, studies have shown that cocoa and dark chocolate have more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any fruits tested, including antioxidant-rich blueberries and acai berries.

How is Dark Chocolate Good for Your Heart?

One of the compounds found in dark chocolate, flavanols, affects two major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate nitric oxide production in your body, which allows blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. In addition, studies have shown that eating dark chocolate raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (also known as "good cholesterol"). Lowering your cholesterol level increases your heart health.

Effects of Chocolate on the Brain

Enjoying dark chocolate in moderation can also improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. In the short term, cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which stimulates your brain and helps you think more clearly. In the long term, high-flavanol cocoa has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, which may significantly improve cognitive function.

Dark chocolate does have health benefits, but it is important to realize that you can only enjoy a small amount. It is important to be aware of the ingredient list and find out which varieties are the lowest in calories, fat and sugar.

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