Treat your ticker to some cocoa: Its flavonoids are linked to a host of cardio perks, including lowering blood pressure, reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol, and decreasing your overall risk for heart disease, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital.
To reap the benefits, sprinkle it in your breakfast smoothie or on your oatmeal; shoot for a tablespoon per day.
Skip your candy run and take a whiff of cocoa instead. "The powder has a rich, indulgent aroma, so you’ll often be satisfied by simply smelling it," says Alan Hirsch, MD, founder of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
In fact, the scent may activate the same neurotransmitters in the brain that are stimulated when eating chocolate. Even if you’re still longing for a Kit Kat after a few whiffs, you’ll indulge less because your urge will have been eased.
Cocoa can help make past skin sinsancient history! "It’s packed with antioxidants that help repair skin cells and neutralize harmful free radicals," says dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD.
Mix up her rejuvenating cocoa mask: In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon ground oatmeal, and 2 tablespoons full-fat plain yogurt. Gently massage onto moist, washed skin. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse off.
Cocoa not only makes your taste buds happy, but it can make you happy, too. The powder contains more than 300 compounds, many of which have a positive effect on your brain chemistry, explains Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. Some of those compounds up your endorphin and serotonin levels, both of which generate a good mood.
To feel warm and fuzzy, whip up some toasty hot cocoa. Sip and smile!