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You've heard it before, chocolate has real health benefits. But what exactly about it is good for you? Nutritionist Lauren Slayton explains—and shares her faves.

chocolate

We know you’re going to eat chocolate tomorrow, and guess what? You should.

According to nutritionist Lauren Slayton of Foodtrainers, chocolate has lots of health benefits. (And we’re not just talking about its ability to enhance desire, which it does). So what exactly about chocolate is good for you?

“If you look at antioxidant content, cacao is the gold standard,” says Slayton. “It has 30 times the antioxidant content of red wine and 20 times the content of green tea. It’s potent.” On a day that celebrates the heart, that’s good news.

A less-known fact: raw chocolate also comes with a healthy dose of immune-boosting vitamin C.

The trick, however, is in how you pick it. Avoid the traditional sugar-soaked V-day variations, and follow these tips from Slayton on how to choose your chocolate:

1. The darker the better. The good stuff lives in the cacao, which dark chocolate has more of. Plus, the higher the percentage of dark chocolate, the lower the percentage of fillers like milk solids and sweeteners.

2. Go raw. The roasting process degrades the antioxidants found in the cacao beans, so raw chocolate has more fab flavonoids.

3. Nibble, don’t nosh. A little chocolate goes a long way (especially when you’re getting the rich, un-watered-down dark stuff). Slayton recommends Sweetriot’s Dark Chocolate Covered Raw Cacao Nibs.

4. Add a healthy mixer. Artificial flavors are not the additives you want. If it’s crunch you’re looking for, Slayton says Alter Eco makes a great Dark Dhocolate Quinoa bar (hello, protein!). Wei of Chocolate’s flower-essence-infused bars help summon healthy states like joy, relaxation, and gratitude. And Brooklyn-based Raaka throws in blueberries—extra antioxidants!—and lavender.

In the end, says Slayton, the general rule to live by is,”the purer the chocolate, the more intense the flavor, the more satisfied you will be.” And get your mind out of the gutter—we’re talking about your health here. –Elizabeth LaRosa

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