With Valentine’s Day approaching, the nationwide chocolate intake rate is about to skyrocket. While this might sound scary to calorie-counters and dentists alike, (dark) chocolate actually can supply the body with tons of health-boosting properties. If you needed more of a reason to love chocolate this February, here are 5 things your chocolate is doing for you:

Packed with Antioxidants
Antioxidants help the body fight off free radicals. Free radicals are atoms, or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons that are highly reactive. These radicals can cause lots of damage to the body when they interact with DNA or cell membranes, even causing cells to die in certain cases. Antioxidants work as neutralizers when they meet with free radicals and limit the destruction these atoms can have on the body. The polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins packed into dark chocolate act as antioxidants - putting dark chocolate on the same level as blueberries and Acai berries.

Reduces Risk of Stroke
As mentioned above, dark chocolate is loaded with flavanols. Besides functioning as antioxidants, flavonoids also help decrease the clotting qualities of blood, which limits the risk of stroke. In one study, it was found that while dark chocolate helped improve heart circulation in healthy adults, white chocolate (which has no flavonoids) posted no positive health benefits.

Protects Your Skin
Just as the flavonoids in dark chocolate boost blood flow to the heart, it boost blood flow everywhere else, especially to the skin. This means that it increase the density and hydration of skin which means healthier, stronger skin. Another study found that dark chocolate consumption helped increase the amount of UV rays an individual could be exposed to before causing redness in the skin!

Helps Balance Cholesterol Levels
Your body functions (at least partly) on different types of proteins. When it comes to talking about cholesterol levels, the two main concerns are low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). It was found that cocoa powder, when given to men, caused a decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL. Both of which are ideal results as LDL particles are reactive and can cause damage to tissues including the lining of arteries in the heart.

Boosts Your Brain
Along with boosting blood flow to the brain, which can significantly improve cognitive function, especially in the elderly and mentally impaired, the stimulants found in chocolate like caffeine and theobromine can give short-term cognitive “pushes” of sorts to improve brain performance - improving focus, energy levels, and even memory.

So go ahead and indulge this week, and don’t be afraid to splurge on that huge heart-shaped box of chocolates!