The darker the healthier

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This Valentine's Day while wading through the sea of chocolate options, consider giving the gift of flavonoid-rich chocolate.

Chocolate has been researched and used for its medicinal properties since the 1500s. It is believed that it was a mainline medicine used to treat everything from lung infections to infertility before it became a decadent, readily accessible food. In 2009 alone there were a number of positive studies showing promising results for the use of flavonoid-rich chocolate as a nutritive sunblock, to increase heart health, lower blood pressure and even possibly ward off cancer.

Most often the darker the chocolate the better but processing can greatly impact flavonoid levels. To find a healthy chocolate, according to CookingLight.com, companion site for the US nutrition and fitness magazine, "it's best to choose a brand that has a high cocoa content, 70 percent or greater." Some brands that make the cut include Lindt, El Rey, Scharffen Berger, Lake Champlain, Endangered Species, Amedei, Pralus Indonésie and Ghirardelli.

Raw chocolate might be the very best option. The RawChocolateShop.com, creator of Ombars, raw chocolate bar, and champion of all raw chocolate brands, list Pacari Ecuadorian Chocolate Selection Box (£15.95/€18, 272g), A Little Bag of Love either the ''the red one'' or ''the pink one'' (£8.99/€10, 145g) as their top three recommendations for Valentine’s Day.

Studies:

Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735513?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=7

Effect of cocoa products on blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910929?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=3

Cancer protective properties of cocoa: a review of the epidemiologic evidence:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19838930?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=4

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