We all love chocolate no matter the age, and this is one food item that is not only delicious to eat but also has some health benefits. Chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, helps lower heart diseases and also works as an aphrodisiac, but like any other food, consuming too much can harm you instead of benefit you. On World Chocolate Day, which is held yearly on July 7, we take a look at 7 reasons why dark chocolate is good for health. Also Read - World Chocolate Day 2020: Read About The Maya Mythology That Surrounds Our Favourite Food

Chocolate is created from the cacao seeds of the Theobroma tree, and it comes in liquid, solid or powdered form. It is again divided into three common forms like dark, milk or white chocolate, with each serving a purpose of its own when it comes to consumption or being used for cooking. Since it is fattening and contains sugar, it is advisable not to consume too much of it. Also Read - World Chocolate Day 2020: How This Aphrodisiac Came to be Enjoyed The World Over

Here are the 7 health benefits of dark chocolate according to healthline.com: Also Read - Chocolate Mousse Recipe: Here's How You Can Make Chocolate Mousse at Home

1. Nutritious:

Dark chocolate has a high cocoa content, lots of nutrients, a decent amount of soluble fibre and minerals. A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–80 per cent cocoa contains 11 grams of fibre, 67 per cent of the RDI for iron, 58 per cent of the RDI for magnesium, 89 per cent of the RDI for copper, 98 per cent of the RDI for manganese, and also plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

However, it is best to consume dark chocolate in moderation as it contains 600 calories and a moderate amount of sugar.

2. Antioxidants:

A test that was conducted showed that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans contain a good amount of antioxidants, and that dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.

3. Help Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure:

Eaten in moderation, the flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO). The nitric oxide functions by sending signals to the arteries to relax, which, in turn, lowers the resistance to blood flow and reduces blood pressure. But it does not always work in people with high blood pressure, as one study showed.

4. Increases HDL and Protects LDL From Oxidation:

A study found that cocoa powder has the capability to increase high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which is good cholesterol, and lower the oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which is bad cholesterol. Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is a factor for many diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

5. Reduce Heart Disease Risk:

Dark chocolate has compounds that appear to protect against oxidation of LDL, which in the long run could lessen cholesterol lodging in the arteries and lower the risk of heart disease. A study showed that eating chocolate two or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32 per cent. Another study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57 per cent. However, these are observational studies and do not prove that it was the chocolate that reduced the risk.

6. Protect Skin From the Sun:

Dark chocolate contains bio-active compounds that are good for the skin, with flavanols protecting against sun damage, improving blood flow to the skin and increasing skin density and hydration.

7. Improves Brain Function:

A study has shown that dark chocolate could help in improving the function of the brain, with healthy volunteers showing that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Apart from that, cocoa could also improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment and improve verbal fluency. The fact that cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, could explain why it improves brain function in the short term.