It’s no secret that dark chocolate is healthy. It has different compounds that offer different benefits to one’s health, and you can enjoy it guiltlessly daily. However, portion size does matter and eating too much of this treatment can add calories, fats, and sugar to your diet, reversing its positive effects on the health.
Dark chocolate contains a lot of cocoa solids. These cocoa solids contain a compound known as flavanols, which, at high levels, can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, lower the chance of getting diabetes, and even improve cognition. Among all the chocolate variants, dark chocolate contains the most amount of cocoa flavanols. Milk chocolate contains less, and white chocolate has zero. Cocoa flavanols present in dark chocolate make it a healthy treat to enjoy but they also give off a bitter flavor.
Manufacturers process these out to make it tastier and less bitter but doing so can lead to the elimination or reduction of these healthy compounds. Matt Hartings, an assistant professor of chemistry at the America University, explained that a lot of factors are put into play during chocolate processing such as roasting and fermentation. While these processes can enhance the flavor and give the chocolate a certain aroma, it can also affect the flavanol content. Hartings said that take roasting as an example.
It produces different kinds of flavor but in order to create the flavors, you also have to destroy the molecules present in the unroasted bean. By doing that, there is a possibility that you end up destroying some of the compounds that are important, like the flavanols.
The flavanol content also still varies depending on the brand of the dark chocolate but when you look at it, it’s still a healthier choice compared to consuming milk and white chocolates, which also have more sugar. In case you need any more reasons to eat dark chocolate, 1/3 of the fat in cocoa butter is stearic acid.
Unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on blood cholesterol levels. Cocoa powder also has a rich variety of minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium, and phosphorus. Dark chocolate is the perfect indulgence after a meal, but make sure to keep the following in mind before you treat yourself.
First, choose chocolate that contains at least 60% cacao. According to Hartings, the higher the percentage, the higher the flavanol content too, but the exact amount would vary from one batch to another, plus the amount of processing the cocoa beans went through would also affect flavanol content. Hartings also said that chocolates with higher percentages of cocoa tend to be healthier than milk and white chocolates.
Apart from more flavanols, dark chocolate has less fat and less sugar. Second, go for natural cocoa as opposed to Dutch processed ones. Dutch processed cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize the acid in chocolate. It gives a milder flavor to the chocolate but also ends up removing flavanols too. Third and last, in order to avoid unintended weight gain, limiting portions to just an ounce of dark chocolate every day will help. That’s equivalent to about 150 calories per day.