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Is Dark Chocolate Good For You?

Updated on June 5, 2012
Turtlewoman profile image

Kim is a board-certified Holistic Health Coach, Healthy Living and Cleanse Consultant, and studied under Drs. Andrew Weil and Walter Willet.

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Benefits of chocolate: dark, milk, or white?


Dark chocolate is healthy?! Is this an oxymoron sentence? My eyes lit up, mouth starts to water, and heart pounds quickly. How can chocolate, my guilty indulgence, be considered healthy? Yet there are a huge number of scientific articles that supports the claim that chocolate can contribute to health. It's true- dark chocolate has more health benefits than light (milk or white) chocolate.

It may be strange that some of my most vivid memories from college involve skipping classes and eating a ton of chocolate bars. It wasn't that I didn't like college; I did. But those late night study sessions lured me into thinking that snacking on a bag of Reese’s peanut butter chocolate pieces will help keep me awake.

Looking back, I gave partial blame to the inevitable “Freshman 15” weight gain for my love of chocolate, especially the ones that came from the shiny commercial wrappers. We’ve all been guilty of using chocolate as a quick fix to satisfy our sweet tooth, or choice of snack for those late study sessions.

Cheers to a healthy, chocolaty drink!

Raw cacao powder and almond milk is the ultimate health drink! Notice all the frothe from the powder on top...that's where all the nutrients are! And it's delicious!
Raw cacao powder and almond milk is the ultimate health drink! Notice all the frothe from the powder on top...that's where all the nutrients are! And it's delicious! | Source

Now that my palate has become more “sophisticated” and having an increased awareness in healthy eating, I learned through extensive research that there are health benefits to dark chocolate.

CHOCOLATE COMES FROM A PLANT!


Chocolate is extracted from the cacao plant, Theobroma cacao, which bears pods containing cocoa beans. The beans are broken into nibs, crushed, fermented, dried, roasted, and then ground to produce cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor can yield cocoa butter and cocoa cake (which is then ground up into cocoa powder). Cocoa liquor can also be combined with cocoa butter, milk, sugar, vanilla to make milk chocolate.

The almond-shaped seeds in a cocoa bean are actual nutritional powerhouses! The benefits of cocoa in chocolate is also due to the amounts of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosporus
  • Potassium

I don't even consider white chocolate a real friend.

White chocolate is not truly chocolate, but a confection created out of cocoa butter and sugar. It has absolutely no health benefits!
White chocolate is not truly chocolate, but a confection created out of cocoa butter and sugar. It has absolutely no health benefits! | Source

Raw chocolate powder: the ultimate superfood (100% cacao)

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Quick terminology review from Wikipedia:


Chocolate liquor- the ground or melted state of the nib of the cacao bean

Cocoa butter- the fat component

Cocoa powder- the nonfat part of the cacao bean, which is ground into a powder


"Dark chocolate"- fat+sugar+cocoa =MOST HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Semisweet chocolate- a dark chocolate with half as much as cocoa
  • Bittersweet chocolate - chocolate liquor + sugar+ cocoa butter+ vanilla (and sometimes lecithin)

“Milk chocolate” – solid chocolate with milk or condensed milk added = SOME HEALTH BENEFITS

“White chocolate” – sugar+milk+cocoa butter without the cocoa solids = NO HEALTH BENEFITS

“Cacao Powder” “Cocoa powder”

  • Natural cocoa – low-fat component of chocolate.
  • Dutch-processed cocoa – most of flavonoids are destroyed during process = NO HEALTH BENEFITS**Note this is most commonly seen in commercial brand candy and hot chocolate drinks.

WHY IS DARK CHOCOLATE A BETTER CHOICE?


Not all chocolate are created equal. Although both dark chocolate and milk chocolate are made from cocoa solids or cocoa liquor, there are some key differences.


  • The most beneficial substance in chocolate is POLYPHENOLS, a group of antioxidants found in the cacao beans. You may have heard of this familiar term in the favorite glass of red wine and green tea. The amount of polyphenols also depends on how they are processed.
  • Whenever you hear about the health benefits of chocolate, they're referring to COCOA percentage. Cacao is the combination of cocoa powder and cocoa butter from the cocoa bean. Together they account for the total cacao percentage on the label of chocolate bar. Therefore, the higher the content of cocoa, the more benefits it adds to your health.
  • A high quality dark chocolate usually contains more than 70%. The percentage of the cacao on the label also corresponds with a more intense chocolate flavor.
  • The most common method used by industrial chocolate makers is called the Dutch process, which reduces the amount of polyphenol content by 60-90% through alkalization! Dark chocolates, use non-alkalized cocoa, which is the reason for its health benefits.
  • Because the act of processing in milk chocolate results in the loss of certain vitamins and minerals, it is better to eat dark chocolate or raw chocolate (raw cacao). Raw cacao powder is always dark and has a minimum of 75% cacao.
  • Dark chocolate also contains fat, which is called cocoa butter. This type of fat is mostly saturated fat, making it very resistant to oxidation.

So, remember: The difference is that dark chocolate has its fat from cocoa liquor and contains more cocoa than other forms of chocolate, including milk chocolate and white chocolate.

DARK CHOCOLATE HEALTH BENEFITS


  • Dark chocolate can help you lower blood pressure and increases blood flow in arteries and the heart.
  • Cocoa may decrease cholesterol level. Cocoa contains stearic acid, a saturated fat and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.
  • Antioxidants destroy free radicals, which are destructive molecules that can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease and other sicknesses.
  • The phenols in chocolate helps boost the immune system.
  • Improve mood and pleasure by increasing the chemical levels of serotonin and endorphin in brain. No wonder people consider chocolate to be an aphrodisiac!
  • Contains minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, choromium (known to regulate blood sugar)
  • Contains theobromine, which stimulates the central nervous system.
  • Contains the essential amino acid, Tryptophan, which calms you down.

CHOCOLATE AND MILK DON'T REALLY MIX!


  • Milk chocolate has more fat and sugar. Milk chocolate may taste sweeter and creamier, but also contains milk powder or condense milk.
  • Some studies say that when milk interacts with antioxidants, it prevents it from being absorbed; making it unavailable. So in order to reap the benefits of antioxidants, don’t eat dark chocolate with a glass of milk. Instead, pair it with almond milk.

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Comparing antioxidants to other foods...


The ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity) is a unit of measurement for antioxidants developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Notice how high dark chocolate is compared to other foods!

  • Blueberries have an ORAC value of 4,669
  • Cocoa, dry powder 55,653
  • Chocolate, ditched powder 40,200
  • Red wine 2,670
  • Apples, with skin 4,275
  • Baking chocolate, unsweetened 49,944

WHY ORGANIC DARK CHOCOLATE?


An organic chocolate bar may contain as much antioxidants as a glass of red wine because organic chocolate is grown free of pesticides.

You can support fair trade practices in the forests of South American countries where cacao beans are grown. A major reason to buy organic chocolate is to avoid pesticides and toxic chemicals. Why not have one more reason to feel good when you bite into that chocolate bar?

For more information on dark chocolate made from organic cocoa beans click on www.transfairusa.org.

The darker it is, the more phytochemicals (like flavonoids) the better!


DARK CHOCOLATE FOR WEIGHT LOSS


Dark chocolate contains significantly less carbohydrates than light chocolate. The darker it is, the less carbohydrates. A high carbohydrate load from consuming milk chocolate will increase insulin secretion, which sends a signal to the body to store fat.

When eaten sensibly, dark chocolate can be a useful weight loss tool. Sweet cravings are inevitable no matter how good you are with your diet plan and healthy eating lifestyle. Occasionally when you have a craving after your workout, eat some pieces of organic dark chocolate. Another good treat to indulge in is to eat some raw chocolate truffles or drink dark chocolate with almond milk.

Just because dark chocolate is healthy, it doesn't mean you should overeat! It still has fat and sugar, which equals added calories! EAT IN MODERATION.

HOW TO EAT DARK CHOCOLATE TO GET THE MOST BENEFITS


1. Eat organic, dark chocolate, which contains the most flavonoids.

2. Consume dark chocolate in moderation.

3. Eat it slowly! Let the piece of chocolate melt in your mouth and allow it to do the “happy dance” on your tongue. Enjoy every drop and pay attention to the texture, taste, and richness of it. Don’t be tempted to just devour it. You must treat it like a bottle of fine wine, and appreciate its delicacy.

4. Eat it alone. When you eat chocolate by yourself, give it the full undivided attention that it deserves. Fully concentrate on the process of eating and enjoying the flavor.

5. Choose a dark chocolate bar with nuts, raisins, or berries for a double whammy of health punch!

6. Turtlewoman's simple HEALTHY CHOCOLATE MILK:

  • Add 1-2 teaspoon of organic cacao powder (raw chocolate powder) to a cup of almond milk. SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE. Enjoy! Breathe...your body will thank you for it.


In conclusion, chocolate can be a health benefit. That is, as long as you buy the dark kind. Just remember the darker it is, the healthier it is. The closer you get to its truest form, the more antioxidants there are in the chocolate.

CLINICAL STUDIES OF DARK CHOCOLATE BENEFITS


Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbial, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects

  • The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 g of dark chocolate during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of free living and healthy human subjects, as per variation of both host and gut microbial metabolism.

Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis

  • The study proved that eating dark chocolate can significantly reduce blood pressure for people with high BP, not normal BP.


All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2012 Turtlewoman (Kim Lam)

Can dark chocolate help beautify your skin? Find out in this video by Dr. Steven Pratt - SuperFoods author

Hub #3/30
Hub #3/30 | Source

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    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for sharing Glenn! 70% is good...the higher the better! And I'm glad you take your time in savoring each piece. Don't you just appreciate it more too? Thanks for stopping by! Take care:-)

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I always knew that dark chocolate has health benefits, and I eat it once in a while. But I never knew all the reasons why it is so exceptionally healthy until I read your hub.

      The one I eat has 70% cacao. But I only eat it once in a while. Now I'm thinking I should make a regular routine of it for all the health benefits, especially for high blood pressure.

      You explained it very well about savoring the taste by letting a small piece melt in the mouth. I have always eaten it that way, and a couple of bites is all I need to feel satisfied. So I don't overindulge, which would have a counter effect.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Angela! Im glad it's a passion...I always thought it was an addiction for me. :-)

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Great article this is definitely a passion of mine. Nice to hear it is healthy!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I went out to get dark chocolate.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Rum in dark chocolate? Hmmm...reminds me of one of my chocolate souffle recipes....dark, rich chocolaty puffiness...now are you craving for more??

      Thanks for stopping by jp!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Yummy! My wif and I love dark chocolate. We love Royce darck choco, the one with rhum in it. I love dark chocolate cake, darck choco bars - minus the nuts. I'm not a big fan of nuts when they're in chocolate bars. I love dark choco drinks, syrups on my icecream, on my pancakes...i guess yo get the point. Your hub just made me crave for dark chocolate.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Of course sweetie, link away! Thank you for checking out my hub!

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago

      This is just so cool, if you don't mind I will link this to my chocolate hub? :)

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Debbie- sometimes I eat a few after my runs too! I also make energy bars using dark chocolate and I still consider those a "cheat treat." Thanks for stopping by!

      Perspycacious- thanks for pointing that out! This 30/30 challenge is taking me for a spin! Thanks for reading...take care!

      Susan- I think it was an acquired taste for me. Eventually I appreciated the dark chocolates more than light ones. Thank you for the kind words...have a great day!

    • profile image

      susanm23b 5 years ago

      Very informative! Loved what you said about eat it alone and give it the undivided attention it deserves :D

      I really prefer dark chocolate because of the health benefits and the flavor. Reading about chocolate is ALMOST as fun as eating it :) Voted up!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      This is a long piece to proofread again, but just doing Spellcheck will catch things such as "aphrosiadic" and make a very outstanding Hub even more outstanding for the reader not distracted by the easily catchables. Up and awesomely useful and interesting.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 5 years ago from Greece

      I've always been a great lover of a certain brand of milk chocolate - although I try to treat it with the respect it deserves!

      As I've gotten older I've learned to enjoy 80% dark chocolate and have encouraged my children to eat it too as I do believe in it's health benefits. I also have a square of the dark when I come in from a longish run since I read somewhere that it can aid recovery and if it doesn't....Oh well!!

      An interesting read.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thanks Melis Ann for sharing! Dark chocolate taste more bitter, and I'm surprised your kids prefer it. Awesome!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Yes- the higher the COCOA percentage, the more polyphenol, the healthier it is, the more bitter it is, and the more expensive it is.

      “Cacao” and “cocoa” were used interchangeably but, technically “cacao” should be used when referring to the unprocessed bean and "cocoa" is what candy manufacturers state on their wrappers. Hope I cleared it up!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

      So there is more polyphenol in chocolate with more cacao?

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      I've always enjoyed the taste and health benefit of dark chocolate. Even my kids know it's a better choice! Voted up and SHARED!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
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      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Many thanks, homesteadbound! *hugs*

      Now you can eat it guilt free! Just promise you won't over-indulge. This hub took a long time to write, but thank goodness I had a bag of dark chocolate covered raisins to get me through it! ;-)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      Wow! Now this is a hub! Not only is it well written, but it also is about one of my favorite foods. In fact, i believe that it is a food group, right? If not, it ought to me!