Humans have been feasting on chocolate since the time of the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs carried on that chocolate tradition and shared it with the world when the Europeans arrived in the 1400s. What did these people know about the health benefits of chocolate that we seem to have forgotten?

1. Chocolate Keeps Teens Slimmer Studies show that teens who consume large quantities of chocolate on a regular basis have significantly lower levels of body fat than teens who eat smaller amounts of the delectable treat. Researchers suspect that the flavonoids contained in the chocolate bean have something to do with this but aren’t sure why yet. Encourage your teen to include deeply colored berries such as blueberries with similar flavonoids in their diet as well. The combination will work to prevent the onset of Type Two diabetes later in life.

2. Chocolate Optimizes Working Memory Office workers are known for stashes of chocolates at their desk for the mid-afternoon doldrums. This might be because a compound contained within chocolate, epicatechin, increases blood flow to the dentate gyrus. The dentate gyrus helps to form new memories during learning and keeps workers productive. That boost of energy after a snack is not a guilty pleasure; it is one of the major chocolate health benefits for stressed workers.

3. Chocolate Lowers Cholesterol Levels Even though it may seem counter-intuitive that a food high in fats works to reduce the bad cholesterol in your arteries and veins, this happens because cocoa butter is rich in heart-healthy oleic acid. A diet containing dark chocolate can reduce harmful LDL levels by up to 10 percent. Keep in mind, though, that as more sugars are added to the final product, the less healthful your treat will be. Stay away from desserts with excess amounts of added sugars to stay healthy.

4. Chocolate Reduces Stroke Risk Chemicals contained within chocolate have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties that significantly reduce the risk of stroke. Eating an average of one-quarter cup of chocolate chips each week lowers the likelihood of a cerebral event by 14 percent. Most studies recommend dark chocolate to gain these benefits, but results from Swedish researchers indicates that milk chocolate is effective as well.

5. Chocolate Keeps the Heart Healthy When it comes to the heart, antioxidants in chocolate provide several benefits for cardiac health. Stick with bars that have a high concentration of cacao and skip highly processed choices. In moderation, a sweet chocolate treat will help the heart repair itself and reduce damaging levels of hypertension. Chocolate really can repair a broken heart. In recent years, more and more medical studies are confirming chocolate health benefits. Instead of resisting temptation, include chocolate in your daily diet. Small amounts of the cocoa bean have been keeping us alert and healthy for centuries when consumed in moderation.

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