• Feb. 1 is observed as National Dark Chocolate Day
  • Dark chocolate provides a host of health benefits
  • Here are some of the benefits that come with eating dark chocolate

After National Hot Chocolate Day on the last day of January, we can still continue to celebrate our favorite sweet treat because the first day of February is celebrated as National Dark Chocolate Day.

Unlike milk chocolate and white chocolate, which are sweeter and contain milk, dark chocolate tends to be less sweet but still provides the rich chocolate taste that many people love. And apart from being a delicious treat, people also have other reasons to eat dark chocolate as it also offers various health benefits.

On National Dark Chocolate Day, grab a bar of dark chocolate and have a look at some of the health benefits that come with it. Courtesy: Healthline, Medical News Today, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan School).

Improve Blood Pressure

According to Harvard Chan School, dark chocolate is actually rich in flavanols, which can help protect the heart. Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains about two or three times more flavanols, the School explained.

What happens is that the flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the production of nitric oxide (NO), then the NO sends signals to the arteries to relax, thereby improving blood pressure, Healthline explained. In a 2015 study cited by Medical News Today, for instance, the people who ate 25 grams of dark chocolate had lower blood pressure compared to the others who instead ate white chocolate.

Better Brain Function

As amazing as it sounds, eating dark chocolate also has benefits for the brain. Researches have not only shown that dark chocolate may improve blood flow to the brain and improve brain function but, it may also reportedly improve the cognitive function in elderly people with mental conditions, Healthline explained.

In the short term, dark chocolate may also improve brain functioning, thanks to its stimulant components such as caffeine and theobromine.

Protection From The Sun

Yes, even the skin may benefit from eating dark chocolate. According to Healthline, the compounds in dark chocolate may provide benefits to the skin including protecting it from sun damage, improving hydration, and increasing the minimum amount of UVB rays that can cause skin redness.

Despite these benefits, however, it's still important to avoid being under direct sunlight as much as possible. If it can't be avoided, then wearing protective clothing and applying sunblock are some of the things we can do to protect the skin from harmful UVA and UVB radiation even if it appears cloudy, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) advised.

Reduce Insulin Resistance

It may sound counter-intuitive to eat chocolate to prevent the development of diabetes, but that's actually what dark chocolate may do. Insulin resistance happens when the body stops responding to insulin, Medical News Today explained, thereby leading to "abnormally high" blood glucose levels.

However, the flavanols in dark chocolate may apparently cause reduced insulin resistance and, in the long-run, reduce the chances of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

These, of course, are just some of the benefits that eating dark chocolate can provide. It is also said to be high in antioxidants and minerals and, may even reduce the risk of heart disease.

But just like with any other food items, it’s important to eat dark chocolate in moderation. This is because some dark chocolates may also contain unhealthy amounts of sugar or saturated fat, while others may have been processed in a way that reduces its all-important flavanols. Some dark chocolate products are also produced via unfair labor practices.

It is then best to choose at least 70% dark chocolate that has a "fair-trade" label, and perhaps to enjoy just a few squares after a meal.

dark chocolate
Pictured: Representative image of dark chocolate. AlexanderStein - Pixabay