With about double the antioxidant capacity of red wine and nearly three times that of green tea, cocoa tops the healthful food charts. The easiest way to get the benefits of cocoa is by eating dark chocolate—the darker the better. (The milk in milk chocolate reduces its antioxidant content.) A 2007 report in The Journal of the American Medical Association cites studies showing that procyanidins and epicatechins, the main flavonols in cocoa, can improve heart health by reducing both blood pressure and cholesterol levels—and these compounds may also lift your mood.
Choose It & Use It
Look for brands of dark chocolate with no less than 70 percent cocoa. Choose cocoa powders that are not Dutch processed—the Dutch process destroys some of the flavonols. Recommended "dosages" range from 1 ounce of dark chocolate to a steaming cup of hot cocoa a day, but health experts agree on one thing: the purer the cocoa source, the better the chocolate is for you.