Who doesn’t like dark chocolate!
Did you know that dark chocolate is made from the cocoa bean. It has been around since the year 2000 B.C. originating from south America. It has a fascinating history; used as currency, consumed at royal feasts and after battles served to surviving warriors! (1)
What happens to the cocoa bean to make dark chocolate?
Well, it is roasted dried and roasted again and then from that you get the cocoa butters and the cocoa solids, and this is where we get our chocolate from.
The variety of chocolates on the shelves in our supermarkets are endless. The main ones that we are familiar with are milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate, plain, filled, coated….
Picking the right chocolate can be so confusing. So in this blog I wish to dive into the detail (while dreaming of Augustus Gloop). Dispel some inaccurate information, giving you many important facts along the way. You can then make the informed choices and enjoy this very tasty snack, especially useful for those with “sweet tooth” cravings!
So, the first question I frequently get asked as a Dietitian….
Is there more sugar in milk chocolate than dark chocolate?
Yes, there is significantly more sugar in milk chocolate than dark chocolate. This can vary considerably so you need to check the content of cocoa solids for each bar you select. The varying amounts really impacts on the fat, sugar, kcals you will consume and more. If you get this wrong this is so disappointing, so I will explain more below.
What is the healthiest type of chocolate to eat?
To check the numbers and understand this further for the best choices we need to look at the nutritional profile of both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. This is all based on how much cocoa solids they both have.
To be classified as dark, the chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa solids (not that much). Milk chocolate much less at only 10% cocoa solids. As you can see these figures can allow for other unhealthy ingredients to be added and take over.
Looking at milk chocolate first, its nutritional profile in 25% cocoa solids per 100-gram bar (average content in a UK bar) is as follows:
540 calories, 31 grams of fat, 58 grams of carbohydrates with 55 grams coming from sugar, 6 grams of protein, 0.6 grams of fibre and 0.2 grams of salt (check the table below).
How does that compare to dark chocolate:
85% dark chocolate (a good % choice) provides a little more energy about 580 calories so another 40 calories per 100 grams due to the 40g of fat in the bar. This should not put you off. The reason for a little extra kcals is the higher cocoa butter.
The focus that is more important for you is the carbohydrate, sugar, fibre, protein, polyphenols content so read on…
The 85% dark chocolate bar contains less than half the carbohydrates than that of milk chocolate, at 22 grams compared to 58g of carbohydrate along with significantly less sugar at 12 grams compared to 55g.
This is a massive benefit for those watching their blood sugars, inflammation, and health in general. In addition, the higher profile of fibre at six grams per 100g and the 11 grams of protein with only 0.13 grams of salt. This allows you to enjoy the full satisfying flavour with benefits. Not spiking your blood sugars or enticing you to overindulge.
There are also further chemical benefits that you get from dark chocolate which have been researched over and over. Polyphenols, a plant food chemical is present in dark chocolate. Known as flavanols and one of them called catechin is known to have a beneficial effect on your blood pressure, which I highlight further on.
Can you eat milk chocolate on a diet?
Yes, you can eat milk chocolate, but do consider how much and how often and what you are eating the rest of the time. All of this together may affect any health or weight issues you may have. On our various dietary programmes, we teach you the best way to look after and optimise your body. The key to success is learning to enjoy eating a variety of foods, the correct amounts, and the frequency – milk chocolate included!
Is dark chocolate good for you?
Dark chocolate when consumed as part of a varied nutrient rich diet can be beneficial in small amounts for assisting mood, providing flavonoids for blood pressure, nitric oxide for athletes, therefore contributing positively to our health.
Dark Chocolate is not only high in antioxidants but also nutrients like magnesium, calcium & potassium. All essential elements needed for good general health. These nutrients are also known to assist in immune protection important against disease causing bacteria/viruses… Knowing these nutrients are present make this a better choice over others when looking for a tasty snack.
How much dark chocolate can I eat each day?
20g-40g is a sufficient amount.
Which is healthier dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Dark chocolate wins with over 85% cocoa solids provides beneficial flavonoids, fibre, essential minerals, and protein, in addition less sugar and saturated fat compared to milk chocolate.
Is dark or milk chocolate better for weight loss?
Weight loss requires food choices to be varied providing as many good nutrients as possible. Dark chocolate provides polyphenols, less saturated fats, and sugar than milk chocolate. Therefore in small amounts can be included as part of a weight loss programme.
Chocolate and mental health?
Dark chocolate contains 4 times more antioxidants than regular milk chocolate does. This can assist in lowering levels of inflammation and may play a role in reducing symptoms associated with depression such as fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. Studies suggest that those who ate about 20g per day improved their overall sense of wellbeing compared to non-chocolate eaters!
Chocolate and specific health benefits
A study that has looked into older people with diabetes that consumed dark chocolate found it assisted in regulating their blood pressure. This was a controlled group who ate healthy and consumed 20g per day (2). We also know that the studies have shown that there is a benefit to brain health and its improved cognition so that’s a win if you are already eating small amounts regularly.
Looking at a study with athletes, the benefits of the flavonoids stimulated nitric oxide which allows oxygenation around the body (3).
Wonderfully the amino acid tryptophan is found in dark chocolate which is the precursor to serotonin. This is our good mood hormone and if it makes you feel good then that is really important to get some of this too!
Chocolate and Skin
All those flavonoids mentioned earlier play important roles outside digestion and the immune system by helping boost collagen production (key factor maintaining youthful complexion). Furthermore–regular consumption could mean decreased wrinkles. Plus reduced chances of developing age related sallowness due to antioxidizing capabilities.
Fantastic that eating the right kinds of foods doesn’t just benefit internal organs but outward appearances giving glowing skin too!
Overall DARK CHOCOLATE tastes great. If you are not a regular consumer then introduce it gradually until you get familiar to its less sweet more bitter flavour. Then you can reap the health benefits while enjoying the amazing taste. But remember watch the amount!
If you are not a dark chocolate eater you may find it bitter at first. I recommend building up your taste over time. Start with a mix – take a square of dark chocolate 70% and 1 square of milk and try that, once accepted try eating from 70% and move to 85% and so on.
If you are looking to make the change why not click today on the chocolate bars below to get tasting…. you can purchase these and more on our 121 Dietitian Shop
Are you ready for the chocolate challenge??
Check out my YouTube video below “MILK CHOCOLATE to DARK CHOCOLATE – SWAP THIS for THAT series”
Chocolate Challenge and more…
If you DO take the chocolate challenge suggested above do let us know how you get on! Any further thoughts/questions or comments you can leave these all on my YouTube page for this video or alternatively visit our Facebook page and drop us a line.
Need help optimising the foods you eat or unsure of how to change your eating habits please do contact us. We would love to help you or your family and friends with any nutrition related queries big or small.
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(1) history of cocoa
(2) Effects of dark chocolate on blood pressure in patients with hypertension Stacy L. Haber, Pharm.D., Karen , Pharm.D. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Volume 69, Issue 15, 1 August 2012, Pages 1287–1293
(3) Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, James Brouner & Owen Spendiff Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition volume 12, Article number: 47 (2015)
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