stack of dark chocolate pieces on white plate and grunge painted wooden table

When looking for a Valentine’s Day indulgence, dark chocolate offers a less-guilty pleasure than other candies and confections. In fact, its’ healthy properties make it a go-to sweet treat all year.

Prevention magazine says dark chocolate “can pack a big antioxidant wallop” thanks to high levels of flavanols, antioxidants that help the body eliminate free radicals and are widely seen as promoting good cardiovascular and brain health.

For instance, in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers in Italy found that participants performed better in cognitive testing after including higher amounts of cocoa flavanols in their diets. All things in moderation — dark chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food.

“Try to stick to an ounce of dark chocolate a day — about three squares of a Godiva bar,” said Dr. Kate Zhong, Senior Director of Clinical Research and Development for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “It’s not a lot, so make it special — get comfortable, enjoy it with some fruit, and share it with somebody special.”

Diet experts say to select dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent of cacao, a lessprocessed, flavanol-rich form of chocolate, and to avoid products made with hydrogenated fats. To learn more about the health benefits of cacao, including how it differs from cocoa, click here.