Most scientific studies agree that antioxidant-rich cacao powder and dark chocolate help to protect the heart. One reason to stock up on the dark stuff at the Paris Salon du Chocolat (Chocolate Fair), which begins on October 28.
Phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper and manganese: dark chocolate is packed with nutrients, minerals and trace elements that assist our immune system, facilitate metabolic processes and help with tissue growth and regeneration.
Cacao beans are also rich in flavonoids, compounds that are found in plants and act as antioxidants, meaning they combat free radicals in the body. There has been renewed interest in studying flavonoids now that they are thought to act against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In July 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said daily consumption of 200mg of cocoa flavanols (contained in 10g of dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao) was good for blood vessel elasticity, thereby improving blood circulation.
Flavonoids also lower "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and improve blood clotting, thereby diminishing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
And vitamin B3 helps to reduce artery-clogging, according to the French Federation of Cardiology.
According to a study featured in the European Heart Journal and presented at the Chocolate and Health Symposium in Paris on June 22, 2010, daily chocolate consumption provides a reduction of 37 percent in cardiovascular diseases, 48 percent in the risk of a stroke and 27 percent in the risk of a heart attack.
Its protective effects are thought to be achieved essentially by lowering blood pressure, the main risk factor in cardiovascular diseases.
Nevertheless, it is better to opt for traditional chocolate manufacturing methods, rather than those that reduce the contribution from flavonoids by adding artificial flavorings, preservatives, dyes, texturing agents and other fatty and/or sugary ingredients.
Premium dark chocolate contains at least 30 percent cacao powder, is less sweet and has superior nutritional qualities. Milk chocolate only has 20 percent and white chocolate does not have any.
It is worth bearing in mind that chocolate should be eaten in moderation as it is high in calories. One hundred grams of dark chocolate is equivalent to 500 calories, which is a quarter of our daily requirements.