Last time we talked about the health benefits of cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Today we look at the major types of chocolate, and how good they are for our health.
Dark Cocolate – 70% Or More
Dark chocolate contains the following three elements: cocoa liquor (not an alcohol) or cocoa mass (cocoa cake – not a real cake), cocoa butter, and sugar.
A bittersweet dark chocolate bar contains about 70% and above of chocolate liquor. Semisweet dark chocolate contains 50-60%.
Next to raw organic cocoa, organic dark chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate – especially when it contains more of the nutritious cocoa mass and less cocoa butter and sugar. Dark chocolate is healthier when it is unsweetened or bittersweet dark chocolate. Any dark chocolate sweetened with refined white sugar is a little less healthy than when using raw cane sugar or dehydrated cane juice. Choose organic if you can.
Milk chocolate contains the same ingredients of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar as dark chocolate, but milk solids and fats are added. Milk chocolate typically contains about 20% milk fat – which reduces its health factor.
Aside from adding extra fat, dairy products also inhibit our body’s absorption of the flavanols antioxidants found in raw cocoa and dark chocolate. It reduces the ORAC (antioxidant content level) value of milk chocolate to about half that of dark chocolate or pure cocoa.
Modern milk chocolate bars and candies are usually made from cocoa powder mixed with refined sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter, some milk products, and various other ingredients and preservatives. If you do enjoy a lighter chocolate, please choose one of the higher quality imported Swiss, French or Belgian chocolate bars. They are much smoother and tastier than what you get from typical English or American milk chocolate confections.
White chocolate is similar to milk chocolate, but without the cocoa mass base. Without any real cocoa bean content, white chocolate is not really a chocolate at all.
Since it does not contain real cocoa beans and none of its beneficial components, and since it has a high content of fats from both cocoa butter and milk fat, white chocolate is by far the least healthy choice among the three common types of manufactured chocolate.
White chocolate is not considered real chocolate in the chocolatier’s world. It’s thought of more like a high-sugar and high-fat candy – not a health food.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Chocolate
When high-quality natural ingredients are used, the title of healthy chocolate can be used when it is made with organically-grown, minimally-processed, raw cocoa/cacao beans that have no pesticide residue and little loss of its natural nutrients. Next to organic raw cocoa/cacao beans or cocoa powder, unsweetened and dairy-free dark chocolate is the healthiest chocolate.
I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again that chocolate is bad for you. It’s not the natural raw cocoa that is unhealthy, but the other strange ingredients included in the kinds of manufactured chocolate bars made from refined sugar combined with various kinds of low-cost ingredients like lard or unhealthy hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Please keep in mind that assorted studies indicate that the dairy products incorporated in milk chocolate block the absorption of the many antioxidants found naturally in raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate. Thus I would not include milk chocolate and most commercial chocolate candies in the healthy chocolate category.
In my next post I will publish my not-so-secret “Best Hot Chocolate Recipe“. Please subscribe to my blog for email notifications of all upcoming articles.