Three dark chocolate candies are in focus.
There’s lots to love about dark chocolate, but its inflammation-fighting properties are especially wonderful. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.

And you know what that means: love, romance and chocolate.

While the former duo may come and go, the latter is always here to celebrate the holiday with us—and thankfully it can be good for us, too.

Happy, healthy heart

Similar to wine or tea, dark chocolate contains flavonoids that act as inflammation-reducing antioxidants, which reduce our risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Studies show that by indulging in a small bar of dark chocolate each day, you may be able to lower your blood pressure and reduce your “lousy” LDL cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.

What’s more, dark chocolate provides us with iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as a surge of endorphins—those feel-good chemicals that help bring a smile to our face. (As if the divine taste alone isn’t enough.)

Supermarket finds

In case you’re wondering what qualifies as a better-for-you dark chocolate bar, here are some examples:

To ensure you’re getting all the health benefits with your chocolate choices, look for a product containing at least 65 percent cocoa—and be sure to read the ingredients.

The nutritional benefits change dramatically when sugars and fats are added, so be on the lookout for palm oil, milk fat, partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats), artificial flavors, caramel nougat and, of course, sugar in any form.

The ingredients are listed by weight, so choose an item where the first ingredient is cocoa or chocolate, not sugar. It’s also wise to select a dark chocolate containing unsweetened, 100 percent cocoa powder that hasn’t been alkalized or Dutch-processed.

Raise the bar

If you are enjoying a chocolate treat at night, be sure to keep the caffeine content in mind.

If you are sensitive to this energizing ingredient, choose carob powder instead. Carob may not have the heart-healthy benefits of flavanols, but for those sensitive to chocolate, this is an excellent alternative.

This Valentine’s, whatever chocolate you choose to indulge in, ditch the guilt and savor every last bite.

Many people try so hard to swear off chocolate entirely, but this only makes us want it all the more. Instead, pick the smallest size of the best chocolate you can find—and aim to enjoy every bit.

What’s an acceptable amount of chocolate? About 3 ounces (85 grams) per day. Studies have shown you can reap the health benefits at this level.

Even so, this seemingly small amount will set you back by up to 450 calories—so be sure to get your dancing shoes ready to balance your calorie budget.