When you’re feeling down, comfort food can feel like a savior. And one of the most popular foods people choose: chocolate—especially dark chocolate. Though you may think of it as unhealthy, there are health benefits to devouring that sweet treat—just check out the science in time for World Chocolate Day!

 

  1. Why Does It Work? All of the magical effects are hypothesized to be caused by flavanols, a.k.a. “phenolic plant compounds,” with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects, most commonly found in dark chocolate. The results are linked to better brain function, lower blood pressure, and better blood flow. While the apple might keep doctors away more than chocolate, it’s still beneficial to your health.
  2. Chocolate and Your Brain. Like we said—chocolate is delicious, and it’s easy to consume plenty. But that’s not always a bad thing. In one self-reporting 2018 study, 13,000 20- to 80-year-olds with depressive symptoms ate chocolate that had 45 percent or more cocoa. The result: depressive symptoms were cut in half when eating dark chocolate. Dark chocolate can also be good for memory. In a 2011 study, young adults found that their memory and reaction time were better two hours after eating dark chocolate; in the same study, 50- to 69-year-olds who took a cocoa supplement for three months did better on memory tests. And in a 2012 study, elderly subjects were fed dark chocolate and reported greater cognitive function. 
  3. Chocolate and Your Body Your brain isn’t the only body part that dark chocolate helps—there are benefits to your physical health as well! In a study of 470 elderly men, those who ate dark chocolate mitigated the risk of heart disease by 50% over a span of 15 years. One of the chemicals in dark chocolate, theobromine, decreased pregnant women’s chance of preeclampsia by 40%. Dark chocolate can also help reduce cravings.

 

So, don’t be afraid to indulge a little extra on World Chocolate Day—after all, it’s healthy for you. (Just make sure it’s in small doses!) Your brain and body will thank you!