If you’re like us, you get excited every time you read or hear about chocolate being beneficial for your health and well-being. As it turns out, there is actual science behind this statement.
Now, before we all get overexcited about this news and go rushing out to stock our pantries full of delicious chocolate treats or ask our special someone for the super deluxe chocolate sampler, let’s take a step back and read up on the facts.
Why It’s Better on the Dark Side
Let’s begin with the important stuff you should know – not all chocolate is created equal. Dark chocolate receives most of the positive press when it comes to benefits. Sorry for you white chocolate fans, but the absence of cocoa powder seems to make a difference. What about milk chocolate? Dark chocolate is the winner in this battle.
This is the part where we also dash your hopes of scarfing down dark chocolate lava cake for lunch under the guise of the “good for you food” category. Common sense dictates that this is not a good idea anyway, regardless of the potential benefits from the chocolate.
Your Daily Dose
Here is the good news: A recommended portion size of dark chocolate is one ounce per day. You read that correctly, one serving every day! If you are looking for the smartest option for this daily allotment, you should look for dark chocolate made with 70% cacao.
Dark chocolate is chock full of flavonoids and antioxidants and contributes to trace mineral intake. What does the 70% mean? It means that 70% of the finished product is made up of the original cacao product, which includes the cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. The remaining 30% of the dark chocolate product is made up of things like sugar and vanilla in addition to other ingredients. You should also know that the higher the cacao content, the less sweet the chocolate will taste.
Because it is recommended that we consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, you may feel good about including dark chocolate in that wide range (in moderate amounts, of course).
Phytochemical-rich foods usually contain antioxidants, which are helpful in assisting our bodies in fighting free radicals.*
Free radicals can lead to oxidative stress. Environmental factors such as pollution and cigarette smoke can cause free radicals and sometimes our bodies actually produce free radicals during ordinary processes and functions such as metabolism. Antioxidants are important because they help combat the effects of these free radicals.*
Mmmm – Minerals
Why is it exactly that dark chocolate gets more positive press than milk chocolate? Well, let’s start with the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans contain several minerals and some of these minerals remain in high amounts even after processing into chocolate. Cocoa beans go through a long and arduous 6-step process before being manufactured into chocolate. The beans are fermented, dried, winnowed, roasted, ground and finally pressed before they are ready to be made into chocolate. The higher the amount of cocoa bean solids in the chocolate, the higher the amount of minerals retained. Since dark chocolate typically has a higher amount of cocoa bean solids than milk chocolate, dark chocolate retains more of the cocoa bean’s minerals.
For a more precise explanation of this, let’s look at two minerals often found in chocolate products – magnesium and copper.
According to the USDA, a typical serving of milk chocolate (44 g) may provide up to 8% (26.4 mg) of the Recommended Daily Allowance USRDA for magnesium.
In contrast, the same serving size of dark chocolate may provide 15% (51 mg) of magnesium per serving (USDA Nutrient Database, Release 14 July, 2001). The USDA nutrient database also shows that milk chocolate has a copper content of 170 g per serving, which is equivalent to 19% of the USRDA for copper. Dark chocolate provides 34% of the USRDA for copper with 310 g per serving.
Indulge your Chocolate Craving!
Before you grab that 2-pound box of dark chocolate and find a place to hide while you devour every last morsel, take a moment to pause and remember a serving size of chocolate is one ounce. Think of a serving size as approximately 6.3 of those famous silver-wrapped chocolate chip-shaped confections. When that chocolate craving creeps up on you, crush it with a handful of tasty morsels, and remember to savor each delectable bite.