How to Buy the Healthiest Dark Chocolate
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Mother's Day or any day, there is good news that dark chocolate is good for our health. Not all chocolate has these health benefits; you have to know what to look for.
The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, lower risk for heart disease, reduce high cholesterol and is high in antioxidants.
Several studies have found that dark chocolate is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants remove free radicals in the body and this can reduce the damage from aging and heart disease. Studies found that after eating dark chocolate, there was a 20% boosts in the amount of antioxidants. The health benefits in dark chocolate are from flavonols, part of the flavonoids family of antioxidants. The flavonoids are procyanidins, epicatechins and catechins. Real dark chocolate is rather high in fiber as well.
Dark chocolate also contains nitric oxide, which is important for healthy blood flow in the body and possibly reducing high blood pressure. This means that dark chocolate could alleviate some blood circulation problems in the body. Also, increasing blood flow to the brain, which could have benefits for memory and dementia.
Theobromine is the main alkaloid in cocoa and dark chocolate. Some people say that the theobromine in dark chocolate works better for them to stop a cough than cough syrup does. Dark chocolate also has potassium, copper, magnesium, sulfur, calcium and iron.
Not All Chocolate Have the Same Health Benefits
These studies had volunteers (where do I sign up) who were given dark chocolate while the second group was given milk chocolate. The volunteers who had the milk chocolate had to consume twice the amount to get the same amount of antioxidants as in dark chocolate. You might think, fine, I will just eat twice as much. But that also gives you twice the amount of saturated fat, which is not good for your health.
The studies also had the volunteers eat dark chocolate and drink milk at the same time. They found that the dark chocolate no longer had the protective amounts of antioxidants as when the volunteers only ate the dark chocolate without milk. Dr. Alan Crozier of Glasgow University believes this is because the proteins in milk bind with the antioxidants in chocolate . When unsweetened cocoa is mixed with water or milk to make hot chocolate, the antioxidant levels fall dramatically.
How To Buy the Healthiest Dark Chocolate
The purest form of chocolate is called the nib, which you can buy for baking purposes. Grinding the nib into a paste makes what is called chocolate liquor, which has no alcohol. There are no clear definitions for dark chocolate though many say at least 60% cocoa for dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate has far less chocolate liquor in it, about 15% or less compared to as much as 90% and higher for dark chocolate. The rest of the ingredients in milk chocolate are milk, sugar, vanilla and cocoa butter. White chocolate has no chocolate liquor in it. It contains milk, sugar, vanilla and cocoa butter.
You have to look at the ingredients to make sure you are getting the healthy dark chocolate. Dark chocolate can also be referred to as semisweet, unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate. Dark chocolate with 85% cocoa could have a more bitter taste than you are used to in a chocolate. Start out with the lower percentages to get used to dark chocolate.
Some dark chocolate products have milk in the ingredients, which many chocolate lovers say cannot then be real dark chocolate. The first ingredient should be chocolate or chocolate liquor and not sugar. A good dark chocolate should have the least amount of ingredients and should say something like, chocolate (or chocolate liquor), cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. Some products will have lecithin in them. It will be healthier if the sugar is from raw cane sugar or dehydrated cane juice. The higher the percentage of cocoa on the label, the more health benefits it will have.
Avoid chocolates that have “Dutch process” or “European style” on the label or have alkali added in the ingredients. This cocoa is processed in a way that can destroy the healthful antioxidants.
Some Dark Chocolates to Buy
Here are a few dark chocolates to look for:
Lindt chocolate has dark chocolate bars, boxes of dark chocolate truffles and other gifts.
Green and Black’s have several organic dark chocolate bars.
Ghirardelli intense dark chocolates.
Endangered Species Chocolate. This chocolate is vegan, kosher, gluten free and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Each chocolate bar has a picture of an endangered animal on it and proceeds from the sale of that bar goes to save that particular endangered animal.
Organic Meltdown will donate the proceeds from your chocolate bar to save a tree in the rainforest.
I believe that real dark chocolate has these blood flow and antioxidant health benefits, but the studies are somewhat confusing when it comes to milk chocolate. The studies point out that drinking milk with dark chocolate negates the health benefits and they pointed out that milk chocolate has much lower health benefits. Yet there weren’t any references to dark chocolate with milk in the ingredients. To get the health benefits, you should eat dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Don’t eat too much, just let the chocolate melt in your mouth and enjoy a couple of pieces for desert.
Chocolate (cocoa) comes from the rainforests, which gives us another reason to save the rainforest from destruction.
Chocolate can be toxic or poisonous to dogs and other animals, so never give chocolate to your pets.
© 2010 Sam Montana