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

How to Peel Ginger (Hint: Don'T) Recipe
14 Must-Make Cauliflower Recipes Recipe
Broccoli and Cauliflower Recipes Even Kids Will Love Recipe
Hearty, Chunky Soups for a Cold Day Recipe
Healthy, Easy New Ways to Enjoy Salmon Recipe
10 Tasty Ways to Make Canned Tuna Gourmet Recipe
What'S in Season: Fall Vegetables You Can'T Miss Recipe
Crispy, Creamy, and Perfectly Cheesy Gourmet Gratins Recipe
10 Creative New Ways to Cook Salmon Recipe
Cozy Into Fall with Savory Seasonal Soups Recipe
Creamy, Comforting Macaroni and Cheese Recipes Recipe
12 Terrific New Takes on JalapeñO Poppers Recipe
Quick and Easy 5 Ingredient Pastas Recipe
Edible Flowers From the Garden of Eat'N Recipe
Snack Healthy with Homemade Hummus Recipe
Every Dish Is Made Better with Beer Recipe
10 Exceptional Coffee Drinks to Make at Home Recipe
10 Handy Meals Made in a Muffin Tin Recipe
Vegan Appetizers Anyone Will Love Recipe
Simple, Hearty Mexican Dishes for a Crowd Recipe
10 Succulent Salmon Dishes for Healthier Eating Recipe
Appetizer Ideas for the Big Game Recipe
Italian Dishes Minus the Indulgence Recipe
Cozy Chili Recipes and Creative Ways to Enjoy Them Recipe
Fantastic, Flavorful 5-Ingredient Chicken Dinners Recipe
10 Savory Curries You Can Make in a Hurry Recipe
Top 10 Christmas Cookies of the Season Recipe
5 Creative Cinco De Mayo Recipes to Get the Fiesta Started! Recipe
Fun Football Shaped Bites for the Super Bowl Recipe
The Ultimate Super Bowl Appetizer: 5-Layer Football Field Dip Recipe
Complete Your Meal with a Perfect Wine Pairing Recipe
Pass the Chickpeas! 10 Healthy Garbanzo Bean Recipes Recipe
Food Pairings with Sean McKenzie and Dave Matthews Recipe
Top 10 Tips for Winning Dinners! Recipe
From Apples to Kale to Salmon, How to Keep What You Love Fresh Recipe
Cooking with Silk® Recipe