Valentine's Day is the single biggest day for chocolate sales in the United States. More than 36 million boxes of chocolates are given as gifts on Valentine's Day, and that's only in the U.S. VOA's Carol Pearson looks at whether all this chocolate can actually be good for you.
Recent studies show that chocolate is good for you, dark chocolate, that is, but not milk chocolate or white chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk.
Sam Aboulhosn is the owner of the Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Crystal City, Virginia. "This is the dark chocolate, chocolate machine. Our dark is 73 percent pure cocoa."
Studies have shown that dark chocolate can lower the blood pressure of people suffering from mild high blood pressure.
Other studies have shown dark chocolate increases HDL or "good" cholesterol and decreases the risk of heart disease.
That's because dark chocolate contains chemicals, antioxidants -- called flavinoids -- that cause the body to make more nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels and prevents plaque from building up. Flavinoids are found in other foods: including tea, onions, broccoli, soybeans and wine, but cocoa that is used to make dark chocolate, is extraordinarily rich in anti-oxidants.
Research in anti-oxidants is still fairly new and there's a lot yet to learn.
Experts say it is still too soon to make a bar of chocolate a regular part of your diet, especially if you are watching your weight.
Dr. David Katz has been studying the positive effects of eating dark chocolate. He warns about overindulging. "If you over indulge, then the benefits no longer win out."
Chocolate contains a lot of fat. Too much chocolate could cause you to gain weight, which would not be good for your cholesterol or your blood pressure.