Kristine Xu is a journalism freshman and Mustang News food columnist. | Maggie Kaiserman/Mustang News

Kristine Xu is a journalism freshman and Mustang News food columnist.

With Easter just around the corner, supermarkets and drug stores are stocking up on pastel-colored goodies to satisfy any kind of sweet tooth. Instead of indulging in sticky marshmallow rabbits or handfuls of colorful Jordan almonds, consider sinking your teeth into a hearty piece of dark chocolate that not only tastes good, but also has many health benefits for the mind and body.

1. Heart health

Why not have your chocolate and eat it too? According to studies from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and the Division of Human Nutrition in the Netherlands, moderate consumption of dark chocolate contributes to an overall healthier heart. This is done through maintaining healthy arteries, minimizing risk for strokes and reducing inflammation of cardiovascular tissue. Additionally, dark chocolate also improves blood flow, helping to prevent blood clot formations.

(via New York Daily News)

2. Antioxidants and prebiotics

Cocoa powder, one of the main ingredients in dark chocolate, is comprised of antioxidant compounds and dietary fiber, which help fight diseases and maintain healthy skin. In addition, the same prebiotics found in whole-wheat flower, dark chocolate and raw garlic are beneficial for stomach bacteria in the digestive track. After consuming prebiotics, the good stomach bacteria increases to out-compete the bad stomach bacteria that could otherwise cause digestive problems. Combine fruits high in antioxidants, such as pomegranates and acai berries, with dark chocolate for an easy-to-make snack.

(via New York Daily News)

3. Weight loss

In moderation, dark chocolate can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. Since it is more filling than milk or white chocolate, it relieves cravings for salty or sweet foods with less calories. Limit consumption of dark chocolate to lessen cravings for other unhealthy foods and maintain a healthy diet.

(via Women’s Health Magazine)

4. Diabetes prevention

Something that may seem harmful to a diabetes condition can actually have positive benefits in the long run. When eaten in moderation, a small dose of dark chocolate can help reduce your insulin resistance by almost half and even control insulin sensitivity.

(via Women’s Health Magazine)

5. Reduce stress

We’ve all done it. Whether it’s eating fast food one too many times per week or consuming an enormous amount of chips during finals, stress eating is a habit many have indulged in at some point in their life. Instead of another pint of ice cream, relieve the cravings with small pieces of dark chocolate. Not only will your cravings be satisfied, but those feelings of anxiety and stress will be greatly reduced. Dark chocolate releases chemicals that speed up the metabolism and reduce stress hormone levels, leaving you feeling more relaxed and happy.

(via Women’s Health Magazine)

6. Skin health

Dark chocolate can play a part in keeping skin healthy for the summer months ahead. The high levels of sun-protecting flavanols found in dark chocolate can protect against harmful rays and prevent skin from developing the early telltale signs of sunburn. Subjects who consumed dark chocolate regularly took twice as long to become red, reducing their chances of skin damage.

(via Women’s Health Magazine)

7. Cough relief

The next time you develop a pesky cough, eat some chocolate to relieve the irritation. Chemicals found in dark chocolate may have the same effects as cough relief medications like codeine, because of the soothing effects and suppression of activity in the vagus nerve. This nerve is responsible for controlling many of the body’s involuntary reflex responses. A bit of dark chocolate is a great natural remedy to calm your throat without the negative effects and drowsiness of cough medicine.

(via Women’s Health Magazine)

8. Vitamins and minerals

Instead of just taking vitamins, supplement them with a piece of dark chocolate. A number of vitamins and minerals found in this treat can contribute to a healthier body because of their beneficial properties. These include potassium, copper, magnesium and iron, which protect against iron deficiency, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

(via FitDay)

9. Brain health

During those late-night study sessions, break out a piece of dark chocolate instead of a cup of coffee. Eating dark chocolate has been shown to improve brain function by increasing circulation to the brain, maximizing short-term memory and overall cognitive function. In addition, the caffeine boost from chocolate is less invasive than the jolting affects of coffee, allowing for a sound night of sleep even after a heavy dose of dark chocolate.

(via Daisy Brains)

10. Happiness

There is a reason chocolate is associated with romance — consuming dark chocolate releases endorphins, chemicals responsible for the feeling of pleasure that can mimic the first feelings of falling in love. Increased levels of serotonin are also linked with dark chocolate, which act as an antidepressant and cannot help but make an individual feel just a little bit happier.

(via Reader’s Digest)

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