If you’re a chocoholic, there’s no reason to feel guilty; your “addiction” may actually be healthy in the long run. According to a recent study, those eating chocolate on a regular basis had a 37% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 29% lower stroke risk when compared to non-chocolate eaters. Chocolate should be consumed in moderation, just like any of the finest things in life, but it is easy to see why the treat is such a sweet addition to your diet. Below are five ways that regular, moderate chocolate consumption can make you healthier.

Increased cognitive ability: The antioxidant-like flavonols in chocolate are believed to increase blood flow to the body, especially the brain. According to a study done in 2009, participants could do mathematical calculations more accurately and quickly after consuming flavonol-filled hot cocoa. The study’s participants also noted that they felt less mentally drained and tired.

A greater feeling of “fullness”: Most of us were told as children that eating a treat before a meal would spoil the appetite, and recent research appears to agree. A Danish research team gave study participants 100 grams of milk or dark chocolate; two hours after consumption, the participants ate fewer calories and showed less interest in sugary, fatty and salty foods.

It makes you feel good: All chocolate contains phenethylamine, which encourages the body’s natural endorphin release (which is also responsible for the euphoric feeling of falling in love). During a UK study, six couples were asked to allow dark chocolate squares to melt on their tongues, and then to kiss. Each couple was connected to heart and brain monitors; the chocolate doubled activity levels in the “pleasure centers” of the women’s brains. It’s thought that the caffeine and sugar in cocoa provides a “high” that can last for a long time.

It can help you unwind and relax: When you’re stressed, is your first instinct to reach for the nearest chocolate bar? As it turns out, there’s a reason for that reaction–a reason rooted in biology. Various studies show that a compound in chocolate works upon the same chemical receptors in the brain as certain drugs. That’s why, for many, a bite of chocolate = instant bliss.

Chocolate may increase your lifespan: According to a British Medical Journal study, chocolate consumption may increase lifespan by up to a year, when compared to someone who does not eat candy. The study showed that those eating chocolate at least three times per month had the lowest mortality rate, a finding that may be attributed to chocolate’s antioxidants. Another study showed that chocolate eaters who’d survived a heart attack had a lower mortality rate than those who abstained.

“Chocolate is good for you!” may seem like a dream that has come true, but don’t call it a health food just yet. Chocolate may contain a significant amount of fat and calories, but its reputation is growing, and mounting research shoes that moderate consumption may offer benefits to the heart and the rest of the body.

Even though chocolate is probably the most common guilty pleasure, it helps with happiness. Don’t limit your life and do indulge once in a while without guilt. If you eat it in moderation there should be no problem anyway, it’s about knowing when to stop! The Lily O’Brien’s team knows it’s very hard when you’re surrounded by delicious chocolate but it’s even worse when you don’t allow yourself any luxuries!

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