When Valentine's Day rolls around every year, many of us equate it to chocolate.They seem to go hand in hand.

And while some might simply feel better when they eat chocolate, the confection has actual health benefits. Unfortunately, they're limited to dark chocolate at this time, as other studies on milk chocolate and white chocolate haven't been concluded.

Dark chocolate has been shown to lower high blood pressure and contains antioxidants, which help rid the body of free radicals, which are harmful molecules associated with heart disease and other health problems. Other studies have indicated dark chocolate reduces blood clotting and decreases bad cholesterol.
And while we'd all like to think of chocolate as calorie-free, sadly it isn't. A Hershey's bar, for example, contains 210 calories. Hershey's Kisses have 25 calories
each. A Nestle's crunch bar 230 calories.

So, like everything else, you need to balance the extra calories by eating less of other foods in your diet.

And chocolate also contains caffeine, so those who are sensitive to it must watch their intake.

Americans consume an average of 10 to 12 pounds of chocolate a year. Sixty-six percent of chocolate is consumed between meals, 22 percent is eaten between 8 p.m. and midnight, and more chocolate is eaten in winter than any other time of the year. Great Britain eats about twice the amount of chocolate a year than the United States.

Valentine's Day comes once a year. Indulge a little with some chocolate and enjoy.

Lisa Westfall is a registered dietician who works for Dublin Methodist Hospital.