A girl's friend, a stress reliever, and a nice treat at the end of a meal or the end of the day. But what makes chocolate special and full of health benefits?

Chocolate contains cocoa butter, 1/3 of the fat is stearic acid which the liver will turn into oleic acid (cardio-protective) fat, the same found in olive oil. Magnesium is also found within chocolate. Magnesium is a nutrient that is useful throughout the body, including bone health, cardiac health, detoxification, enzymatic functioning and as an anti-spasmodic. It also contains phosphorous which is vital for bone health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine as well, a stimulatory neurotransmitter that makes us feel alert, focused and energized.

Chocolate also contains antioxidants. Most of which are part of the phenol family, which contains procyanidins, such as flavan-3-ols, which are also found in red wine, berries and other fruits. Other procyanidins that are in chocolate are resveratrol, theaflavin, and epigallocatechin gallate, which is one of the antioxidants found in green tea. Research done in South Korea has found that cocoa contains more such antioxidants than black tea, green tea, or red wine. The key is the higher the cocoa butter the more the chocolate has antioxidants in it. Most commercial candy bars are only 20% cocoa butter, while darker and finer chocolate can contain up to 70%. Research done at the University of Scranton has determined that chocolate contains 400 mg of antioxidants for every 1.4 ounce serving of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has twice the amount of antioxidants, but white chocolate contains none.

Caffeine is also found in chocolate, anywhere from 10-30mg of caffeine per bar. This is a relatively small amount of caffeine, as coffee usually contains over 100mg of caffeine and tea will have around 50mg.

Chocolate is able to keep LDLs from oxidizing as well. Dark chocolate or cocoa powder can raise HDLs, while not effecting LDLs. The antioxidants found in chocolate have been shown to reduce platelet aggregation and increase nitric oxide induced vasodilatation, which can lower blood pressure.

The best forms of chocolate are dark chocolate or cocoa powder, as they have higher levels of antioxidants. An issue with chocolate is the sugar, as sugar in a pro-oxidant, decreases liver detoxification along with many other health concerns from cavities to obesity. Chocolate does not contain fiber, like other high antioxidant foods such as fruits and vegetables. So have a treat of chocolate once in a while.