The Truth About Chocolate Health Benefits

Chocolate - Healthy or not?

image: Fodoro.com

Valentine’s Day is a big annual chocolate-fest, driving about 5% of annual chocolate sales. As with wine, chocolate is much more than a food, it is an art form.

And in the past few years, chocolate has become synonymous with health benefits. “It’s got antioxidants,” and that automatically makes it good. Right?

What you need to know:

Chocolate comes from cocoa beans. The beans are bitter and full of antioxidants called phenols. These phenols have been shown to reduce blood pressure. So far so good.

The chocolate most of us buy and consume bears little resemblance to the cocoa beans, which undergo significant processing before becoming your 3pm pick me up snack.

For starters, it is not bitter. That’s because most chocolates undergo an alkalization process (also known as Dutch process) to remove the bitter flavor. This, of course, removes a substantial percentage of the healthy antioxidants.

Most chocolates people buy are “milk chocolate”. Less than on third of these products actually comes from cocoa beans. The rest is milk and sugar. It has been shown that the milk actually negates some of the antioxidant activity.

That’s why experts recommend switching over to dark chocolate, which must contain at least 35% cocoa mass. The higher the cocoa mass, the more health benefits, and the less sugar.

But even dark chocolate is high in sugar and saturated fats. Take Green & Black’s 85% Dark Chocolate. It’s one of the top rated chocolates on Fooducate. But it still grades low overall (click here to see how low). That’s because a single serving (12 small squares weighing in at 1.5 ounces) has 250 calories and 60% of your daily value for saturated fat. It’s also got 2 teaspoons of sugar in it.

UPDATE: Turns out there is a fair amount of acrylamide in chocolate according to Dr. Michael Lustgarten, a scientist at Tufts University.

Bottom Line: Nobody ever died because they didn’t eat enough chocolate.

So enjoy chocolate for its great taste and to bond with your Valentine.  To increase its health benefits: eat a much smaller serving than recommended on the package. That means half an ounce instead of 1.5 ounces. Unfortunately – and this comes from personal experience – we doubt that following this recommendation is humanly possible.

What to do at the supermarket:

Learn to enjoy the pleasures of dark chocolate – 70% or higher cocoa content.

Practice self restraint and portion control – only one or 2 squares a day.

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  • Jack

    What about adding 100% powdered cocoa to your smoothie? You get the antioxidants & I use ripe banana to sweeten it.

    • Guest

      Do you mind sharing what brand of cocoa powder you use? I’ve been wanting to get some, but there are a lot out there so I wasn’t sure which one(s) was/were the ‘best’. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Saturated fat doesn’t lead to heart attack though [1], so the C- score is bogus.

    [1] http://chriskresser.com/heartdisease

    • Gerome

      Yes. And the link to an acupuncturist is great! I’m not going to listen to Harvard anymore. Thanks. 

  • Carol

    Chocolate is a little more complicated, especially as far as the bitterness thing. Many factors are involved — the fermentation process reduces some of it, and different varieties of cacao beans have different levels of bitterness (generally the more rare and expensive — e.g., criollo — are naturally less bitter, and they require less roasting). Also, Dutch process cocoa is not used for chocolate bars/candy… it’s for beverages and ice cream (for its solubility), and for certain baked goods.

    Note that “serving sizes” on Nutrition Facts are NOT “recommended” servings, but simply “reference amounts” established for standardizing the unit of measure for which nutrition data is provided within a category of food (e.g., all snack chips and nuts  have nutrition shown for 1 ounce so that it is easier to compare the nutrition of one snack with another).

  • Meberts62

    There actually is ONE healthy chocolate made by  MXI corp. You can see it @ parishealthychocolate.com This chocolate is NEVER roasted or Alkalized and retains the maximum antioxidants and polyphenols. parishealthychocolate.com

    • Krystal Yon

      I just asked the question regarding XOCAI…

  • http://www.minilaptopcheapnotebooks.com/ Kia Jennifer

    Very nice demonstration! I discovered the presentation info very helpful for me. I’ll definitely allocate such info with others. Thanks

  • Krystal Yon

    What do you think of XOCAI healthy chocolate??? It sounds like it has everything that you say our modern chocolate is lacking…