Happy International Chocolate Day!

piece of chocolate
CC BY 2.0 russellstreet

There are many reasons to celebrate chocolate, not least of all for the surprising health benefits a bar of high-quality dark chocolate brings with it. What are you waiting for?

Today is International Chocolate Day, quite possibly the best day of the year. While chocolate is loved by many, it has acquired a bad reputation for its association with overweight and obesity, acne, and headaches. Much of this chocolate, however, is more like candy than true chocolate; it is full of sugar and other additives. If you source high quality chocolate with a large percentage of cocoa (also known as dark chocolate), there are some very surprising health benefits to be had. Good chocolate possesses unique chemistry with remarkable physical benefits. Here are some surprising facts:

Flavonoids are antioxidants present in cocoa beans. They help get rid of free radicals in the body, preserve cell membranes, and ward off cardiovascular disease. Because flavonoids degrade rapidly when heated or processed, they can only be found in dark chocolate.

These flavonoids are good for your brain. They’re believed to reduce memory loss in older people, improve brain functioning, and provide anti-inflammatory treatment to people with brain injuries.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant with a molecular structure similar to caffeine. It acts directly on the heart, lowering blood pressure, boosting good cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls. Theobromine is even thought to be better at suppressing coughs than codeine, and is an effective treatment for asthma. Theobromine is also good for your teeth by helping to repair enamel.

Watch the following video from The Economist to learn more about how chocolate is prepared, why it’s good for you, and how much is too much.

One final point about chocolate: Before you go shopping to celebrate this auspicious day, please give some thought to the people who work the cocoa plantations. It is an industry that’s rife with injustice, abuse, and even child slavery in some cases, so be willing to pay extra for fair trade certification. It makes a big difference. Read: Why it's important to stick with fair trade chocolate

Related Content on Treehugger.com