National Dark Chocolate Day
Also known as
Dark Chocolate Day
annually on February 1st
Chocolate may be associated with decadence and gluttony, but when dark chocolate is involved, a little bit of indulgence is okay, especially when it happens to be National Dark Chocolate Day. Made up of cacao or cocoa beans, a bit of sugar, an emulsifier—such as soy lecithin—and sometimes added flavors, like vanilla, dark chocolate does not contain milk solids and is classified by the percentage of cocoa in its makeup. The more cocoa it has, the less sugar it usually has, and the more bitter it is.
Unsweetened chocolate is dark chocolate made up of between 85–100% cocoa beans. It is the most bitter dark chocolate but is also the healthiest. It is primarily used to make baked goods. Bittersweet chocolate is dark chocolate made up of between 65–80% cocoa beans, although chocolate with between 35%–65% cocoa is sometimes also considered to be bittersweet. It is often eaten plain, but can also be used for cooking. Bittersweet chocolate with lower than 65% cocoa bean content is sometimes further subdivided into semi-sweet and sweet chocolate.
Dark chocolate has many health benefits, particularly if it has at least 70% cocoa content. A type of flavonoids, flavonols, which are antioxidants, are found in the chocolate and can reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, reduce heart disease risk, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase neuroplasticity, which improves brain function. The antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, which prevents oxidative stress—what occurs when free radicals get out of check and start damaging the body. Dark chocolate is packed with copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and fiber. Even though it is healthy, it is high in calories and fat, and still has some sugar, so it shouldn't be eaten in large quantities. But being that today is National Dark Chocolate Day, it's alright to leave that piece of advice until tomorrow.
How to Observe National Dark Chocolate Day
Celebrate by eating dark chocolate! Pick up some to eat plain, or use some to bake a dessert. You could even make your own! You could use the day to focus on the health benefits of dark chocolate, by eating a moderate amount of it with a high cocoa content, or you could eat more than usual today, and enjoy some with higher sugar content. It's up to you!