No more feeling guilty after munching on your favorite chocolates because a new process will make them healthier and taste even better.

Researchers at the University of Ghana studied the manufacturing process of chocolates starting from how the workers cut down the pods from the cocoa trees. The current process includes fermentation of the white or purple cocoa beans in baskets for a few days before they are sun-dried. Once the beans are completely dried, the workers start roasting them to enhance the flavor. The researchers observed that during roasting, the antioxidants evaporate, which makes the chocolates less healthy.

Antioxidants offer a number of health benefits and are known to prevent some diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and cataracts. Earlier studies also suggest that it can slow down aging. With this background, the researchers set out to find a way of enhancing the flavor of the cocoa without roasting to preserve the antioxidants.

The team used 300 cocoa pods that underwent a different number of days of storage prior to fermentation and sun drying. The researchers observed that the pods that were stored for at least seven days showed the highest level of antioxidants, even after roasting them in different heat temperatures. From the regular 10 to 20 minutes of 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit, the pods were roasted for 45 minutes at 242 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We decided to add a pod-storage step before the beans were even fermented to see whether that would have an effect on the polyphenol content," Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, lead author of the study at the University of Ghana, said in a press release. "This is not traditionally done, and this is what makes our research fundamentally different. It's also not known how roasting affects polyphenol content."

Researchers called the storage process "pulp reconditioning," which not only helped to retain the antioxidants, but also enhanced the flavor of cocoa beans.

The study was presented on March 24 at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).