Is dark chocolate genuinely healthy? The talk these days about dark chocolate is mainly about flavonoids and trace minerals, two of the ingredients that make cacao a so-called super food. But do you understand what those things are, and more importantly, why they are important?
Chocolate is beneficial to your health because it makes you joyful on a fundamental, chemical level. Studies have confirmed this again and again, but half-sugar Hershey’s and Cadbury’s bars do not count. Nevertheless, a good brain reaction is not the only reason to reach for a high-quality chocolate bar after a meal.
- 1 What Exactly Is Dark Chocolate?
- 2 On a Chemical Level, Cacao
- 3 Additional Chocolate Ingredients
- 4 Chocolates for the Body and Soul
- 5 Question about chocolate!
What Exactly Is Dark Chocolate?
Each of the three varieties of chocolate, white, milk, and dark, has a legal classification in several nations. These standards essentially govern the minimum quantity of cacao derivatives and dairy that must be included in each chocolate, as well as the maximum amount of nutritive carbohydrate sweetener (sugar) content. Dark chocolate, for its part, is not yet expressly defined by the FDA, which prefers to define the word chocolate, enabling producers to describe their chocolate products as they see fit.
To be more exact, the key distinctions between any given dark chocolate will be the proportion and the cacao origin. People often ask me why 70% dark chocolate is the greatest. and I often react with a question of my own: what are you doing with it? So whether you’re baking, supplementing, or just enjoying will determine which dark chocolate is ideal for you.
Any chocolate containing at least 10% cacao but less than 12% dairy is termed dark chocolate, while milk chocolate prepared using an alternative milk is legally classified as dark chocolate. This might be excellent news if you like dark chocolate for its health benefits but find it too bitter or intense. If you’re simply seeking for scientific evidence to back up your evening splurge, read one to find out what your selected chocolate can accomplish.
There are several advantages to eating dark chocolate, the majority of them are tied to the food’s trace minerals and natural antioxidants. Nevertheless, milk and white chocolates provide many of the same advantages.
1. Chocolate Prevents Aging
Little doses of high-quality chocolate help to slow the aging process. Cacao is a plant that is used to make dark chocolate. As a result, it naturally includes flavonoids, a kind of plant-derived antioxidant. Flavanols and polyphenols are flavonoid types found in chocolate, red wine, and green tea that prevent aging at the cellular level.
Epicatechin, the most prevalent kind of cocoa flavanol, is an antioxidant that is now extensively used as a supplement in bodybuilding because it promotes blood flow to the muscles and may reduce blood pressure. Nevertheless, since these antioxidants are exclusively contained in cocoa solids, neither blonde, ruby, nor white chocolate will provide this benefit.
2. Cacao Butter Is Beneficial
Cacao fat is healthy if consumed in moderation. Cacao butter, or cocoa seed fat, is primarily composed of four kinds of fatty acids, the combined power of which has been found to have an overall neutral impact on the heart. The distribution is such that about 75% of the fatty acids found in cocoa butter are heart-protective.
But, that pesky 25% (I’m looking at you, palmitic acid) may have a significant influence on its own, even leading to heart disease if ingested in big quantities. While chocolate is still rich in calories, keep your treats modest.
3. Chocolate Helps to Combat Poverty
Chocolate, when selected well, may lift people out of poverty. Millions of cacao farmers throughout the globe rely on the modest cacao bean for stable income. To fight the systemic poverty, several chocolate producers develop supportive direct partnerships with farmers and their farms, improving pricing and quality. Although this does not cover every single second the cacao is in transportation, it is a significant start in the right way.
4. Cacao helps to preserve global biodiversity
Cacao plants contribute to the conservation of biodiversity on plantations. Increasing variety promotes cacao growth, which improves the quality of cacao farmed and, as a result, the quality of chocolate produced across the globe. Farmers may maintain stable revenue by having many harvests available for sale at different times, increasing the likelihood that they will pick cacao only when it is mature.
5. Cacao Educates You About Globalism
You can learn about different cultures by eating sustainable chocolate. Cacao is presently cultivated on fields in Taiwan, the United States, Uganda, and Cuba, with industry-wide initiatives in the works to expand producing areas sustainably. Understanding our global interconnectedness and how it impacts other cultures begins with knowing where the ingredients originate from and how chocolate is created.
On a Chemical Level, Cacao
On a molecular level, understanding cacao and chocolate is so intricate that we still don’t have the whole picture. Scientists have discovered hundreds of compounds in cacao that contribute to its distinct taste notes and health advantages. Many of these health advantages are related to the fact that cacao is a plant that has been farmed for millennia in the Americas’ tropical rain forests.
It would take hours to present a complete summary of cacao’s 600+ constituents, so we’ll stick to the fundamentals here. Flavonoids, such as flavanols and polyphenols, are antioxidants found in chocolate that are beneficial to humans since they have been demonstrated to reduce the detrimental effects that oxygen may have on our cells.
Consider an apple slice left out in the open air for an hour; this is identical to what is happening to our cells. Cacao contains trace minerals that your body needs to operate, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
The stimulating characteristics of chocolate are attributed to small levels of caffeine and higher amounts of theobromine, a chemical closely linked to caffeine and with comparable effects. There are now 10 unique cacao varietals known to exist, however they are often referred to as criollo, trinitario, forastero, and nacional.
Because of genetic variety, growth region, and quantity of sunshine, among other factors, each chocolate cultivar has a unique nutritional potential. To give you an idea, a cocoa bean contains around 50% fat, which is made up of stearic, palmitic, linoleic, and oleic fatty acids (palmitic acid is the unhealthy one).
The precise quantity of fat, as well as the proportions of saturated and unsaturated fats, differs across varietals. The distance from the equator is important, but how much of these nutrients stay intact after the cacao is processed on the farm and in the chocolate factory is also important.
Additional Chocolate Ingredients
When cacao reaches the hands of a chocolatier, it is usually in the form of unroasted cacao beans. This is the most important element in all varieties of chocolate. These beans are washed, roasted, and the shells are removed after they arrive. Roasting the beans at a lower temperature for a longer length of time may help to retain more of the nutrients found in cacao.
Unfortunately, this tends to maintain the particular taste of the beans, resulting in variable flavor in goods, which chocolate makers do not favor. Moreover, roasting at higher temperatures produces a richer chocolatey taste, as does dutch processing, a typical method of flavor standardization.
The acidic cacao is alkalized by dutching processing cacao or cocoa powder. This lowers nutritional bioavailability while neutralizing pH and enhancing classic chocolate taste. Milk proteins are also thought to attach to the nutrients in cacao, making them less bio-available, but with a less deleterious effect than dutching.
The use of alternate fat sources, which must be powdered in order to preserve minimal moisture in chocolate, is a new response to this problem. Milk has long been used to mask the bitterness and astringency of cocoa, as well as the more pleasant qualities.
PGPR, palm, and vegetable oils are among low-cost alternatives to cocoa butter. But, coconut milk powder and heavy cream powder are becoming more popular as alternatives. While it is uncertain how these milk replacements alter chocolate on a molecular level, the taste results seem to be excellent.
Sugar is the most frequent addition to cocoa in order to make nutritious chocolate that is also tasty; it is also the most pleasing in general culture. Adding sugar fulfills our sweet expectations, enabling dark chocolate connoisseurs to concentrate on the distinct tastes inherent in chocolate. But, it also raises blood sugar, induces weight gain, and forces you to eat more in one sitting.
Alternative sugars are here, and they’re proud of it, especially in terms of taste. The most nutrient-dense, yet tasty, choices include raw cane sugar and coconut sugar. Alternate sweeteners such as stevia, maltitol, and xylitol have their own drawbacks, the most prominent of which is the loss of sugar volume. Each choice produces a unique chocolate experience, and it is your obligation not to outsource your health in search of a fast cure.
Chocolates for the Body and Soul
Every chocolate bar is a commitment made to you, the buyer. Some producers are better at keeping their promises when it comes to sourcing ingredients, making bars, and promoting goods. But, cutting through the cacophony might be difficult. Transparency in the value chain is required to provide better chocolate and more global equity.
It’s even more difficult to identify which chocolates on the market are the healthiest. Just as a bottle of beer from the store does not specify which hops or grains were used, or how long everything was fermented, etc., neither does your bar of chocolate. And knowing everything is required to choose which chocolate bar is unquestionably the healthiest.
Fortunately, there are various indicators that may tell you which chocolates are healthy, beginning with the cacao quality. Seek for single origin and bean-to-bar chocolate, and don’t be put off by greater percentages or higher prices. Finally, you’re paying for cacao rather than sugar. Lower roast characteristics and cacao that is claimed to be criollo or trinitario will result in more intact nutritional content and superior taste.
Consume dark chocolate or a high percentage milk chocolate that is free of dairy. To make chocolate nutritious, you don’t have to include so-called super nutrients. We just discovered that cacao is naturally healthy, but the procedures it often goes through and the additives added are not. But, your chocolate addiction is not going away. Therefore establish a partnership with a chocolate company.
Learn about their best practices and what makes their chocolate special and worthy of your money. Remember that where you spend your money matters. Positive reinforcement of good behaviors will result in increased quality chocolate intake and overall enjoyment. My recommendation? Always eat with purpose.
Question about chocolate!
Larger producers are known to include different vegetable oils, flavorings, and preservatives. Sugar and unsweetened chocolate liquor (ground cacao nibs). Some chocolate manufacturers use vanilla, additional cocoa butter, and other ingredients.
Milk and dark chocolate of poor grade. A dark chocolate bar with a high cocoa content has a lot of potassium, which may help relieve period cramps, and the modest level of sweetness helps elevate general feel good chemicals in the body without overloading on inflammatory sugar. The more pertinent issue here is whether dark chocolate is unhealthy for you. Mostly, the answer is yes. If you’re on your period, stay away from white chocolate and low-fat dairy products.
Some people wonder why 70% dark chocolate is so good for you. I often remind them that this is an imperfect adage: the greatest chocolate is the highest percentage dark chocolate that you love eating. Yet, for some, it will be a 55% dark while for others, it will be a 95% dark. That’s a significant increase, but the most crucial portion is high-quality cacao, and the more of it you joyfully consume, the better.
The answer is simple: 28g (1oz.) every day. Nevertheless, determining precisely what dark chocolate is beneficial for you to consume each day is more difficult, since both quality and amount play equal roles. A low percentage, poor grade milk chocolate will only contain around 30% cacao, with the majority of it made up of cacao butter. It means virtually all of the flavanols that protect you against cardiovascular disease and cell aging are functionally missing, raising your LDL cholesterol while doing nothing to balance the scales. Always choose dark chocolate with a high proportion of cacao, especially handmade chocolate.
In moderation, 28g (1oz.) of high-quality dark chocolate containing at least 70% cacao is beneficial to the heart. If you still want chocolate, consider a chocolate-covered item like almonds. Yet, are dark chocolate almonds healthy to consume on a daily basis? Sure! Just make sure you don’t have more than 2oz (or even less if your body is generally sensitive to saturated fat).
Cacao solids in chocolate include a trace of caffeine and a substantial quantity of theobromine, an alkaloid related to caffeine. Is it dangerous to eat dark chocolate every day before bed if you have insomnia and a caffeine sensitivity? It’s most likely not good. If you suspect that chocolate is interfering with your sleep or that you have a histamine problem, restrict your chocolate consumption to less than 1oz per day and just in the mornings.
Very high % dark chocolate may offer mildly preventive characteristics for your skin due to natural antioxidants, but it is the extremely inflammatory sugar that will get you. This is also related to whether chocolate is healthy for gut health, since high-sugar chocolates have a bad impact on the stomach, the heart, and your BMI. If you have skin or gastrointestinal issues, stick to higher-fat milk and dark chocolate.
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