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What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?

(WGN Radio) — With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, you may find yourself enjoying a box of chocolates or some other heart-shaped sweet treat. It may not come as a shock to you, but some of that chocolate may actually be healthy, in a way.

We’re talking specifically about dark chocolate (sorry, heart-shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter candies).

Speaking with Bob Sirott of Nexstar’s WGN Radio, Dr. Sindhu Aderson, Medical Director of Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care, outlined some of those benefits found in dark chocolate.

“Dark chocolate has cocoa, which is rich in flavonoids (antioxidants), and the higher percentage of cocoa in your chocolate, the more health benefits are possible,” Dr. Aderson said, citing new research and explaining that the main findings were that dark chocolate is a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

“If you’re taking in these more natural forms of cocoa, that leads to some improvement in your health and lowering high blood pressure,” she added. Lowering your high blood pressure can decrease the risk of experiencing certain kinds of cardiovascular disease.

You can listen to Dr. Aderson’s full conversation with Bob Sirott below.

Some have also pointed to dark chocolate as a good snack if you’re looking to feel full. Dr. Donald Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, said in a 2019 blog post that dark chocolate falls in a group of high-protein, high-fat foods that can give you satiety, or the state of feeling full.

Dark chocolate isn’t all good though, of course. As Dr. Aderson explained, there are fats in the chocolate, which can be unhealthy, and it can also increase your blood sugar — a factor that could be concerning for those who are diabetic.

However, dark chocolate is typically lower in sugar than milk chocolate. A blog post from US Davis Health recommends selecting a dark chocolate with 70% to 80% cocoa for the “most ‘health benefits.’”

Health experts have warned against eating dark chocolate too close to bedtime, though.

Cleveland Clinic sleep specialist Dr. Michelle Drerup told Nexstar that because of its caffeine content, dark chocolate can disrupt your deep sleep.

“The half-life of caffeine is about five to seven hours,” Drerup explained. “So if their typical bedtime is around 10 o’clock, we usually say, you know, by noon, one o’clock, that’s an ideal time to cut it out.”

Jeremy Tanner contributed to this report.

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