Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, and semisweet versus bitter. Does all chocolate have the same effect on our bodies? Chocolate is an interesting food that falls on the fence of whether or not it is something healthy or only a sweet indulgence. I am sure you’ve heard that chocolate is good for your heart; however, too much chocolate can also mean too many calories, sugar, and saturated fat. So which is it?
Lucky for those of us with a sweet tooth, chocolate has listed benefits. However, often this is limited to dark chocolate only. What’s the difference? The answer is the process in which it’s created.
Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of cocoa, and often less (or close to none) of any other added ingredients that other forms of chocolate may have. For example, milk chocolate has added milk solids, and sweeter chocolate has more sugar. It’s these additives that give chocolate a bad rap, and it’s the cocoa that gives the benefits.
Cocoa is high in antioxidants. MedicalNewsToday describes antioxidants as substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, and are linked to protection against heart attack, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions. This is precisely the link to chocolate being good for our hearts.
In addition to antioxidants, dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the daily value (DV) for iron, 58% of the DV for magnesium, 89% of the DV for copper, and 98% of the DV for manganese. While this is not a suggestable amount, as it comes with sugar and high calories, it gives you an idea of some of the most essential nutrients that come with the indulgence of chocolate.
Finally, chocolate has been linked to improved brain activity as well. Healthline compares a few studies that stated high flavanol cocoa could improve blood flow to the brain, improve verbal fluency, and cognitive function, as well as several risk factors for disease.
While these benefits of chocolate are incredible, as it’s been mentioned, there are risks for overconsumption of chocolate, especially the risk of increased caloric intake and high sugar consumption. With that said, the benefits do seem to outweigh the risks, especially when consumed in moderation. However, remember that all chocolate is not created equally, and you will always want to opt for the least-processed option and dark chocolate with the highest cocoa content possible.