(NaturalNews) Chocolate has been unwrapped as a healthy dietary addition for most. Of course, it should be organic dark chocolate minimally sweetened and without milk additives.
Since raw cacao is the main antioxidant and nutritional provider, it should be well over 70% cacao and more bitter than sweet. You can get raw cacao nibs or powders if you want to realize cacao's maximum health benefits.
But dark semi-sweet high cacao content bars are more accessible, convenient, and yummy. And there has been a good deal of research to support the health benefits of snacking on 100 grams (3.3 ounces) of dark chocolate often.
Research supporting chocolate's health benefits
(1) Aging mentally intact.
A recent study of hot cocoa beverage consumption supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute was conducted at the Harvard Medical School and recorded in the August 7th online version of the journal Neurology.
The study was titled "Neurovascular coupling, cerebral white matter integrity, and response to cocoa in older people." The researchers were concerned with increasing brain blood vessel flow and testing brain function on senior citizens.
They selected 60 participants with an average age of 73 who were not suffering from dementia. They drank two cups of hot cocoa daily without any other form of chocolate for 30 days.
Of those 60 participants, 18 had tested for impaired brain blood flow with some level of brain damage. After consuming cocoa beverages, those 18 showed significant improvements with brain blood flow and working memory tests, while the participants whose brain blood flow was regular had no changes with their test scores. 
The research report conclusion: "There is a strong correlation between neurovascular coupling and cognitive function, and both can be improved by regular cocoa consumption in individuals with baseline impairments." [1a]
(2) Minimizing sunburn.
Another study, published by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2009, determined that chocolate consumption helped protect against ultra-violet (UV) sunshine exposure.
They divided 30 participants into two groups of 15. One group was fed high flavanol (HF) chocolate while the other 15 were fed low flavanol (LF) chocolate daily for 12 weeks.
After the 12 week period, the minimal erythema dose (MED) level was twice as high for the HF group. Erythema is when the skin starts turning pink from sun exposure. The MED test measures that threshold.
So if you want to suck up more UVB sunshine-sourced vitamin D without burning, skip the Mars Bars and eat high organic cacao content dark chocolate. 
(3) Cardiovascular health.
This was a massive epidemiological study conducted cooperatively by several Boston medical institutions using the 4,970 participants aged 25-93 years who participated in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Family Heart Study. 
This group discovered that "chocolate consumption is inversely associated with prevalent coronary heart disease (CHD)." In other words, those who ate chocolate had less coronary issues, and the more that was consumed, the lower the risk for CHD. Published in the 2010 journal, Clinical Nutrition.
A study titled "Regular consumption of dark chocolate is associated with low serum concentrations of C reactive protein in a healthy Italian population" was published by the journal, Nutrition,in 2008.
Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammation marker produced by a stressed liver. It can relate to autoimmune diseases or infections. It's associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
This study discovered among a few thousand Italians without chronic disease. Included were those who ate no chocolate, those who ate milk chocolate and those who ate only dark chocolate.
Those who consumed dark chocolate moderately had the lowest CRP serum levels. The study concluded with "... regular consumption of small doses of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation."
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