Besides satisfying your sweet tooth and tasting delicious, chocolate has some surprising health benefits. This is mainly thanks to the cacao bean, a chief ingredient in chocolate, which contains over 400 chemicals, many of which are good for you.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. according to the American Heart Association. Given this fact, it is important to find foods that will help keep a woman's heart as healthy as possible. Eating moderate amounts of chocolate can lower your risk of heart failure, particularly if you are an older woman, according to a nine-year Swedish study reported in "Circulation," a journal of the American Heart Association. The study compared the risk for heart failure against the quality of chocolate consumed by over 30,000 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women. Researchers concluded that women who ate an average of one to two servings of dark or "high quality" chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure.
Flavonoids are present in many healthy foods, but dark chocolate has more than most. Research indicates flavonoids can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve blood flow to the brain and heart and lower your risk for a blood clot, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Chocolate may help with female sexual functioning, according to a 2006 study in the "Journal of Sexual Medicine." The study found that women who consumed chocolate daily scored higher on the Female Sexual Function Index than those who didn't eat chocolate regularly. When the study authors factored in the role of age though, the index results remained similar.
Processing to eliminate cocoa's naturally strong taste also reduces the amount of flavanoids. While most commercial chocolates are highly processed, dark chocolate is less so. Your best bet is to pick dark chocolate over milk chocolate. It is also smart to read labels and avoid cocoa powder that has undergone "Dutch" processing, a process that treats cocoa with alkali to neutralize acidity.