Chocolate has been around since 2000 B.C., originally a bitter drink that the Mayans mixed with wine or spices. Today, it is available in every grocery, convenience, and sari-sari store—but its current commercial form is a far cry from the drink of the Mayans.

While chocolate lovers rejoice every time news comes out that chocolate may be good for health, studies normally look into the benefits of dark chocolate. So don’t use science as an excuse to consume copious amounts of the commercial stuff—these often come with ingredients like sugar and corn syrup, which aren’t exactly good for your health. Organic chocolates are a healthier choice, having no artificial flavorings or additives. 

Dark Chocolate Benefits

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao pod. These are extracted and processed into beans, the shells of which are separated from the nibs. These are ground and components are separated into liquor (which is then used to make cocoa solids and chocolate) and cocoa butter (found in lotions).

The amount of cocoa solids is typically indicated on the packaging of dark chocolate (anywhere from 50% to 90%); its milk chocolate cousins contain less then 50%. White chocolate contains no cocoa solids and is instead made with cocoa butter.

Dark chocolate retains many of the purported benefits of cocoa as it isn’t diluted with other ingredients like sugar and milk as much as milk chocolate and white chocolate. The Harvard School of Public Health summarizes some of its benefits:

May be good for heart health. Dark chocolate is loaded with flavanols, which aid in the production of nitric oxide, which in turn helps relax blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research states that “cocoa flavanol doses of around 900 mg or above may decrease blood pressure in specific individuals and/or if consumed over longer periods.”

May lower risk of diabetes. The same compound was found to increase insulin sensitivity in short-term studies, which makes it a promising treatment for diabetes.

Is loaded with nutrients. Aside from being rich in flavanols, dark chocolate also contains iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. Each of these is important in maintaining good health.

Other studies have cited chocolate’s antioxidant content, which may help keep inflammation at bay.

Take note, though, that these health benefits are not an excuse to eat dark chocolate all day long. As it is high in calories, moderation is still key: Have a square or two after a meal instead of trying to meet your recommended daily allowance of minerals with dark chocolate! Use it as a delicious supplement to a diet rich in whole foods, instead of treating it like a main food group.

Find different types of all-natural chocolate in Healthy Options.