Chocoholics, you can now gorge on your favourite treat without a sense of guilt, for scientists have claimed that it's actually healthier than many fruits.
Not only that, but chocolate is being heralded as the latest "super food" by the scientists who carried out a study. They have proved that it is packed with more healthy plant compounds and antioxidants gram-for-gram than fruit juice and provides far more nutritional goodness than food experts had previously thought.
The scientists have based their findings on a comparison of cocoa powder, the raw ingredient of chocolate, with powders made from fruits like acai berries, blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates, the 'Daily Express' reported.
Research into dark chocolate, containing around 60 per cent cocoa, and cocoa drinks found that they too had more antioxidant activity and more flavanols -- health-giving plant chemicals -- than fruits.
The discovery means cocoa beans meet the nutritional criteria needed for fruits to be classed as "super fruits" according to the scientists at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition in the US.
"The compounds in dark chocolate are just as good as the botanical compounds in fruit. Cacao seeds should be considered a 'super fruit' and products derived from cacao seed extracts such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as 'super foods'," said lead scientist Debra Miller.
However, the findings do not alter the fact that their favourite is high in fat and sugar, meaning dieticians say it should be balanced with less yummy foods such as brown rice and pulses, say the scientists.
"Dark chocolate needs to be considered as more of a tropical fruit like avocado which has a high fat content so you need to moderate the calories side of things. But people could create drinks and recipes containing cocoa to get the benefits without the calories," said Dr Miller.