For those of us living in the midwest and on the east coast, this has been a long, cold and snowy winter. That means snow removal, layers of clothing and dry skin. So what’s a good pick-me-up? You guessed it: chocolate! Why? Because natural cocoa and dark chocolate may not only improve your mood, but it can also help the skin stay more hydrated and look better.

Why Chocolate Is Skintastic: Flavanols, which are plant compounds naturally found in the cocoa bean, help promote blood flow and dilate vessels. This action helps to deliver nutrients throughout the body, including to the skin.

A June 2006 study found that cocoa flavanols protect the skin from ultraviolet damage, increase blood flow to the skin, increase density and thickness of the skin, decrease water loss, and improve overall appearance of the skin. Plus, cocoa butter has been used for generations as a topical, moisturizing beauty product.

READ MORE:Beauty Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Ch-Ch-Chia and Chocolate: Even though chia seeds are mostly known through that Chia Pet commercial, there are healthy benefits to eating these seeds. Chia seeds are full of fiber, which plays a huge role in digestion. They may also reduce the risk of heart disease. When added to chocolate, chia seeds provide a unique crunch that’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, magnesium and iron.

Dark Chocolate Bark Recipe: This delicious recipe only needs a few bowls, a sauce pot, spatula, baking sheet, parchment paper and some upper body strength.

Ingredients: 10 ounces 70% cocoa bittersweet dark chocolate2 teaspoons instant espresso powder½ cup toasted walnut pieces½ cup toasted pecan pieces½ cup toasted almond slices1 tablespoon chia seeds

Directions: Combine chocolate and coffee, place over a double boiler, heating on a low flame while stirring until chocolate is 3/4 melted. Then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Mix in the toasted nuts and chia seeds. Spread mixture on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and chill until mixture sets, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces and serve.

READ MORE:Beauty Benefits of Dark Chocolate (Infographic)