By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"
Chances are good that you'll encounter chocolate at some point today. Chocolate has earned a bad rap as a guilty pleasure, but this superfood has some pretty amazing health benefits. We think you should feel good about eating chocolate--the dark variety, in moderate portions. Here's why:
1. Chocolate contains more than 300 chemicals, including phenyethylamine, an amphetamine-like substance that simulates the feeling of falling in love. Is there any more appropriate day than today to eat a treat that makes you feel like you're in love?
2. If you're feeling a bit glum, chocolate can boost your spirits and dull your pain, thanks to b-endorphin, a naturally occurring chemical similar to opium.
3. That dark chocolate morsel is protecting your heart, too. Polyphenols, which are among the antioxidants found in chocolate, have been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease--the #1 killer in America.
4. The flavonoids in dark chocolate may have a positive effect on blood pressure and insulin resistance.
5. Chocolate will not give you pimples. (Neither will fries, but they lack the health benefits of chocolate.) Dermatologists have debunked the myth that diet causes acne, so you can chomp on chocolate without putting your complexion at risk.
6. Deprivation backfires. Studies have found that if you put certain foods off limits, you're more likely to crave them (and potentially binge on them) later on. Eat a moderate portion of chocolate to avoid overdoing it.
7. Dark chocolate can help your cholesterol levels. A study found that choosing a moderate portion of chocolate over a carb-rich snack increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
More reading about this sweet treat:
Be Choosy about Chocolate
Chocolate: A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure
7 Myths and Facts about Chocolate
What is your best reason to eat chocolate? Do you prefer milk or dark?
SparkRecipes.com editor Stepfanie Romine is a certified yoga teacher and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A vegan and runner, she has lived and cooked on three continents.