Which Type of Chocolate is Healthiest?
Courtesy of Danielle Gaffen MS, RDN
Are you searching for the healthiest type of chocolate for this Valentine’s Day? Here’s what you need to know!
Most chocolate products start with chocolate liquor, the rich liquid that is produced from cocoa beans! Despite the name, chocolate liquor’s not alcohol! The name “liquor” is used as the old meaning of the word, liquor, to mean liquid or fluid. Chocolate liquor is the term for the base of all chocolate…it’s made after roasting and de-shelling the cacao bean and made by grinding the cocoa nibs into a paste/liquid— so different percentages of chocolate contain different percentages of chocolate liquor!
Removing most of the cocoa butter from chocolate liquor results in cocoa. This reduces the fat content to less than 22% in cocoa, as compared to about 38% in eating chocolate and 50% in unsweetened baking chocolate. The lower fat proportion gives cocoa a very concentrated chocolate flavor.
Chocolate confections are made by combining cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sweeteners, milk (sweetened condensed milk, whole milk powder, or evaporated milk), and other ingredients such as nuts. Chocolate manufacturers create different types of chocolates by adjusting how much cocoa, cocoa butter, and/or other ingredients are added.
Amount of Cocoa
The amount of cocoa not only affects flavor – which becomes stronger as more cocoa powder is added – but actually determines how chocolate is defined:
Unsweetened chocolate = 100% cocoa
Bittersweet chocolate = 35% or more cocoa
Semi-sweet chocolate = 15-35% cocoa
White chocolate is technically not chocolate at all because it does not contain any chocolate liquor or cocoa. Instead, its basic ingredients are sugar (no more than 55%), cocoa butter (at least 20%), milk, natural flavor, lecithin, and vanillin.
Today, milk chocolate is the most frequently consumed type of chocolate in the US. It contains at least 10% of chocolate liquor and 12% of dried whole-milk solids.
Have you noticed that it’s become trendy for chocolate to maximize health benefits?! Dark chocolate is extolled for its high antioxidant concentrations, as compared to milk chocolate.
One ounce of dark chocolate contains between 60-69% pure cocoa, and provides 160 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 grams carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein. It also contains manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Finally, the cocoa bean is a rich source of the antioxidant theobromine, which helps reduce inflammation and may help lower blood pressure. Because dark chocolate contains more cocoa, it has higher levels of these nutrients!
Is Chocolate Actually Healthy?
Chocolate has been studied in many nutritional research studies and has been associated with the reduction of health diseases like lowering heart disease and stroke, and improving cognitive function, and even lowering blood pressure.
Note that although chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains many good-for-you nutrients, it’s high in calories. Our team of registered dietitian nutritionists recommends that if you want to include chocolate in your diet, stick with 1 ounce of 60-70% of dark chocolate per day to keep calories and saturated fat levels in check.
Looking for the Perfect Antioxidant Pairing this Valentine’s Day? Try Berries and Chocolate!
Berries are loaded with antioxidants to boost health and nutrition too. So why not combine these two tasty antioxidant-packed foods to make the ultimate Valentine’s Day treat?
Which chocolate will you choose this Valentine's Day?