A lot of scientific studies you read about often seem too good to be true, and they usually are; sadly, Croatian scientists will probably never find that 74 percent of subjects who ate only cake actually lost weight, or that a caramel latte a day will reduce your risk of stroke. But sometimes, on a few glorious occasions, it turns out something you love actually is good for you.
I'm talking about chocolate here. So let's really talk about chocolate. Not all chocolate packs the same healthful punch—the kind you can eat with moderate abandon (an ounce or so a day) is dark chocolate, cocoa, or cacao. Look for chocolate that touts a 70 percent or greater cocoa content, and then get down to the healthy business of inhaling it. Milk chocolate and even a lot of "dark chocolate" candy bars have tons of sugar and a lot of fat either introduced or reintroduced in manufacturing. So any health benefits you get from these are going to be outweighed by the added sugar and fat. Sorry, candy's not ever going to be good for you. However, there is some good news.
Chocolate Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Some recent research suggests that chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties. As microbes in your intestines break it down, chocolate yields flavanols, which, over time, can cause blood vessels to dilate, improving blood pressure.
Chocolate Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants help your body repair itself and prevent your body from being damaged by free radicals, which can cause everything from arterial plaque build-up to eye conditions to cancer. The jury is still out on how effective boosting antioxidants are in warding off these ailments, but there's at least some evidence that you should be eating them. Happily, chocolate happens to be a source of antioxidants. Of course, you could get more antioxidants from eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but a little chocolate is a nice supplement.
Chocolate May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, dark chocolate consumption reduces blood platelet aggregation, which in turn reduces the likelihood of a blood clot forming, thus reducing a major cause of heart attacks.
Chocolate is a Natural Cough Suppressant
Theobromine, the alkaloid that may be responsible for some of the pleasure you get from eating chocolate also suppresses the vagus nerve, which allows it to work as a cough suppressant. A pharmaceutical company is working on a theobromine-based drug, but for now you'll just have to stick with dark chocolate. Poor you.
Elizabeth Stark is a food writer with a passion for seasonal food, great desserts, and inadvisable wine pairings. Read more on her blog, Brooklyn Supper.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor changes have been implemented by the Cosmo.ph editors.