The dark chocolate you want to buy contains at least 65% cocoa and the higher the better/healthier with some products getting as high as 85% cocoa.
Here is a summary of some of the health benefits the most recent studies are attributing to the powerful antioxidant polyphenol compounds called flavonoids found in dark chocolate. (It’s the cocoa component of dark chocolate that contains these healthy compounds. Milk chocolate contains considerably less cocoa content and it has more fat and sugar, so that’s NOT the way to go.)
The health benefits of dark chocolate:
- Reduction in heart disease by as much as 37%
- Protection against the aging effects of free radicals on our cells
- 20% reduction in risk of stroke
- Mild to moderate reductions in blood pressure
- Protect and enhance vision due to increased blood flow to the eyes
- Enhances mood and protects against depression
- Preliminary reports stating cancer protection
- Harvard study reports a one year increase in life expectancy
- May protect skin against harmful UV effects of the sun
- May reduce inflammation in the body and markers of inflammation like C-Reactive-protein (CRP)
Recent studies, published in well-respected science journals, state that moderate consumption of dark chocolate but not other kinds of chocolates like milk chocolate or white chocolate, can yield some important health benefits.
“Dark chocolate”, also called “plain chocolate” or “black chocolate”, is chocolate produced with either zero or much less milk than milk chocolate, to which sugar and fat are added.
Dark chocolate is synonymous with semisweet and extra-dark (that contains even higher levels of cocoa) is also referred to as bittersweet.
The percentage of cocoa, in dark and extra-dark chocolate, is significantly higher than the cocoa levels in milk chocolate.
This is significant for at least 2 reasons:
1 – Milk is thought to interfere with the absorption, into our bodies, of the healthy and naturally occurring antioxidants, called polyphenols, which are found in the cocoa derived from the cocoa bean. Cocoa levels in dark chocolate can get as high as 90% or more. Levels in milk chocolate can be significantly less than 35%.
2 – The higher % of cocoa in dark chocolate results in higher levels of the antioxidants which are thought to yield some of the health benefits of dark chocolate that will be discussed below.
Studies – Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.
Another paper, published by Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, showed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate consume destructive free radicals that associated with heart disease and other chronic degenerative diseases. This research also showed that milk either in the chocolate or consumed with the chocolate will interfere with the absorption of the antioxidants in the dark chocolate and reduce or eliminate their potential benefits.
Therefore, do not consume milk at the same time you eat dark chocolate. A reasonable portion of dark chocolate would be about 75- 100 grams or about 2 ½-3 ½ ounces. But remember, this much dark chocolate would contain about 370-530 calories, so try to eliminate another desert, of similar caloric content, if you start consuming dark chocolate.
I know it’s Easter…and all of those cute milk chocolate Easter bunnies are tempting but try to find ones that are made of dark chocolate, to get these healthy benefits.
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S