It has been surprising to learn that chocolate actually has healing qualities that might far outweigh the negatives of its consumption. In most studies, participants who eat chocolate around 3-4 times per month or 1-2 times per week are the ones who reap the benefits of cocoa. Any more or less than that, and the healing efforts of cocoa may not be able to produce the desired effects. A study conducted in Stockholm in 2009 that lasted roughly 8.6 years showed that those who reported eating chocolate twice or more per week were 66% less likely to suffer a cardiac death compared to those that did not eat chocolate at all. In a Japanese study, risk of diabetes among men was reduced by 35% in those that ate chocolate once or more per week. Another 2009 study suggested that elderly men preferring chocolate over other types of candy reported less instances of depression and loneliness. A study of 2,217 participants conducted by the NHLBI Family Heart Study identified an inverse relationship between chocolate consumption and plaque in the coronary arteries. Those who reported eating chocolate two times or more per week were 32% less likely to have significant coronary artery calcification compared with participants who never ate chocolate.

There are so many studies referenced in the article I read this week that show a positive correlation between chocolate consumption and overall health. Dark chocolate seems to be the best option for its high antioxidant content, but any type of chocolate in moderation will probably suffice. Cocoa comes from the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree. Cocoa liquor is the paste made from the ground cocoa beans. When you look at the packaging of chocolates, the higher the "percent cacao" is, the darker the chocolate will be. If you are looking for the healthiest, most pure chocolate, get the one with the highest cocoa percentage.

Chocolate provides more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. Chocolate increases the production of nitric oxide in your blood, which in turn helps your vascular health and blood flow. Anti-inflammatory effects of chocolate may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes. Cocoa helps protect against neurodegradation, increases perfusion or blood flow, decreases neuroinflammation, and modulates neuronal function through interaction with a number of signaling pathways. It can even help protect against UV rays when used in topical preparations. Potential detrimental effects exist which include weight gain. However, the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption are shown to far outweigh the risks. It is good for you, it tastes amazing and it makes you happier.

Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease David L. Katz, Kim Doughty, and Ather Ali Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2011 15:10, 2779-2811