Dark chocolate isn't just delicious, it's also good for you!  Chocolate is a guilty pleasure for many, but now, research shows that dark chocolate has nutritive benefits that could pull it out of the shame game and add it to any healthy diet.  Cocoa is, after all, made from plants, and actually does contain a number of the health benefits that dark vegetables do.  Even though you probably didn't need a reason to indulge in dark chocolate, here are 5 great ones to consider!

1) Antioxidant Benefits

Research conducted by Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research shows that plain dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help defend against cell damage by removing potentially reactive free radicals and preventing their formation; they've also been linked to the prevention of some degenerative diseases such as cancer.  

2) Lowers Cholesterol

The consumption of flavonoid rich cocoa powder or dark chocolate can reduce the oxidation of low-density lipids (LDL), otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol, which plays a role in the development of hardened arteries, and encourage increased high-density lipids (HDL), "good" cholesterol linked to healthy cardiovascular activity.  

3) Lowers Blood Pressure

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate on a regular basis reduces blood pressure and improves endothelial function (meaning that chocolate helps reduce turbulence in the flow of blood, allowing it to be pumped further).  

4) Improves Blood Flow

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study stating that "cocoa consumption has an aspirin-like effect on primary hemostatis" (essentially the formation of platelets); this means that chocolate has anti-clotting and blood-thinning properties that can potentially improve blood flow.  

5) Mood Booster

Chocolate contains tryptophan, which your body uses to create seratonin, which in addition helping you sleep, also helps with depression.  Eating chocolate also stimulates the brain's opioid production (like dopamine), creating a sense of happiness and diminishing pain.   Additionally, it's a well known fact that chocolate just tastes good, and this alone is enough to boost your spirits.

Related Searches on Yummly:

Photo Credits: Bistro Chic, Godiva, Gourmet Food World, Dark Chocolate Health Benefits, The Ecology Lass, Ann Marie Kostyk, Candy Favorites

Top 10 Christmas Cookies of the Season.
Hearty, Chunky Soups for a Cold Day.
Healthy, Easy New Ways to Enjoy Salmon.
10 Tasty Ways to Make Canned Tuna Gourmet.
10 Creative New Ways to Cook Salmon.
12 Terrific New Takes on Jalapeño Poppers.
Quick and Easy 5 Ingredient Pastas.
Snack Healthy with Homemade Hummus.
Every Dish is Made Better with Beer.
10 Exceptional Coffee Drinks to Make at Home.
10 Handy Meals Made in a Muffin Tin.
Vegan Appetizers Anyone Will Love.
Simple, Hearty Mexican Dishes for a Crowd.
10 Succulent Salmon Dishes for Healthier Eating.
Appetizer Ideas for the Big Game.
Italian Dishes Minus the Indulgence.
Cozy Chili Recipes and Creative Ways to Enjoy Them.
Fantastic, Flavorful 5-Ingredient Chicken Dinners.
10 Savory Curries You Can Make in a Hurry.
5 Creative Cinco de Mayo Recipes to get the Fiesta Started!.
Fun Football Shaped Bites for the Super Bowl.
The Ultimate Super Bowl Appetizer: 5-Layer Football Field Dip.
TOUCHDOWN! The Extreme Super Bowl Recipe Round-Up.
Complete Your Meal With a Perfect Wine Pairing.
Food Pairings with Sean McKenzie and Dave Matthews.
Top 10 Tips for Winning Dinners!.
From Apples to Kale to Salmon, How to Keep What You Love Fresh.
Cooking with Silk®.
Grow Your Own Ingredients: Fresh Garden Favorites.
Bring Game Day Parties to Life with Lit'l Smokies.
5 Lit’l Smokies Recipes to Bring Holiday Parties to Life.
Foods that Will Put You to Sleep.
5 Tips For Enjoying The Holiday Season, Guilt Free and Naturally.
Black Bean & Corn Guacamole.
Slow Roasted Pork Arepas with Quick Pickled Onions and Chimichurri.
Citrus Salmon and Watermelon Popsicles.