Dark Chocolate: Catching up with Health Benefits
Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants.
There is no legal, manufacturing definition of what makes a chocolate
"dark," but in general it contains a higher percentage of chocolate liqueur or
cocoa solids and less milk and sugar than milk chocolate. This gives dark
chocolate a stronger, more intense flavor than milk chocolate. According to,
Dark Chocolate? in Happy Living Magazine" Most dark chocolates
contain between thirty-five and fifty percent cocoa products, a ratio favored by
gourmet bakers. Higher quality dark chocolates may be as much as eighty percent
cocoa products, and European varieties are typically darker than
American-manufactured dark chocolates. Because of the higher concentration of
cocoa products, dark chocolate is slightly more expensive than milk chocolate."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established standards of identity for
many chocolate and cocoa products in the United States. The
standards define the percentages of key ingredients that must be present in
each type of chocolate.
Dark Chocolate produced by the grinding of the cocoa bean
nib (center) to a smooth liquid state. There are standards for both Semisweet
(Bittersweet) Chocolate and Sweet Chocolate, both of which are often referred to
as dark chocolate.
Semisweet (Bittersweet) Chocolate contains chocolate liquor
with added cocoa butter and
sugar. The government standards require at least 35 percent cocoa butter.
Fat content may vary but averages between 30-35 percent.
Sweet Chocolate contains more sweeteners and cocoa butter
than semisweet chocolate. The level of chocolate liquor must be at least 15
percent to meet the standard.
Milk Chocolate is the most frequently consumed type of
chocolate in the U.S. Milk chocolate contains sweeteners, chocolate liquor,
cocoa butter, milk (or cream), and flavors. Milk chocolate must contain at least
10 percent chocolate liquor and 12 percent milk solids to meet the US standard
of identity. The only fats allowed in milk chocolate are cocoa butter and milk
White Chocolate contains the same ingredients as milk
chocolate with the exception of chocolate liquor or cocoa powder. White
chocolate must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent total milk
solids, and less than 55 percent sweetener (sugar).
Chocolate is full of anandamide and phenylethylamine, two compounds that
cause the body to release the same feel-good endorphins triggered by
sex and physical exertion. Cocoa also contains methylxanthines, which
sensitive to every touch. Aim for dark chocolate, which packs more cocoa
than lighter milk chocolates, and keep portions small.
A good Source of Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining a sense of
smell, keeping a healthy
immune system, building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA.
Unsweetened baking chocolate provides 9.6mg (64% RDA) of zinc per 100g
serving (most bars are 50-100 grams). Cocoa powder will provide 6.8mg (45%
RDA) per 100g, or 5.4mg (39% RDA) per cup, 0.3mg (2% RDA) per tablespoon.
Most milk chocolates provide around 2.3mg (15% RDA) per 100g serving or 1mg
(7% RDA) per bar
Good for the Heart
Dark chocolate has been shown in a number of studies to be good for
cardiovascular health. A new study in Sweden has shown that women have
less heart failure if they regularly ate dark chocolate high in flavonoids.
This study (reported in Circulation: Heart Failure. 2010 – Journal of the
American Heart Association August 16th, 2010) of over 30,000 Swedish women
over a period of nine years found that these 48-83 year old women had a
lower rate of heart failure if they regularly ate dark chocolate. Benefits
associated with dark chocolate in past studies include improved flexibility
of the arteries, which can contribute to lower
blood pressure, and reduced stickiness of clot-forming blood components
called platelets, which might reduce the risk of strokes and other problems
associated with unwanted clotting.
A recent study done by Italian researchers suggests that flavonols present
in chocolate can improve the utilization of insulin in
diabetic patients. Dark chocolate consumption accelerated the body's
metabolism of blood sugar, or glucose, a process that involves the hormone
insulin. Impaired insulin function can lead to diabetes. The researchers
stated, “Our findings support a potentially beneficial action of chocolate
flavonols on insulin sensitivity, and suggest further research in this
Control Blood Pressure
Plant phenols from the cacao plant help lower blood pressure. In fact,
dark chocolate contains higher concentrations of flavonoids than tea and red
wine, if it is properly manufactured, and it has twice the antioxidants of
milk chocolate. Standard manufacturing, however, destroys up to half of
chocolate's flavonoids, making it less beneficial. Ferri and his colleagues
tested a diet containing 100 grams per day of dark chocolate, in the form of
commercially available "Ritter Sport" bars sold by Germany-based company
Alfred Ritter. Blumberg's lab determined that each bar contained about 100
milligrams of flavanols, which are flavonoids that are relatively easy to
measure. Blumberg estimates that there were about 400 milligrams of other
flavonoids in each bar. For 15 days, 10 volunteers with high blood pressure
got those bars and 10 others ate white chocolate bars that contained no
flavanols. After a 1-week break, the two groups switched the chocolate they
were eating. During the half month when volunteers ate dark chocolate, their
average systolic blood pressure decreased from 136 to 124 millimeters of
mercury. Diastolic blood pressure fell from 88 to 80. There was no change in
blood pressure in people while they ate white chocolate bars.
Some of the fats in chocolate do not impact your
cholesterol. The fats in chocolate are 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid
and 1/3 palmitic acid:
- Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in
- Stearic Acid is a saturated fat but one which research is shows
has a neutral effect on cholesterol.
- Palmitic Acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises
cholesterol and heart disease risk.
That means only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is bad for you.
The cocoa bean, from which real chocolate is derived, is a natural product
and therefore contains many chemicals that can interact with the human body. For
example, chocolate contains caffeine and we all know what caffeine does to the
body. It turns out that chocolate also has little miracle compounds called
The blood is a war zone of sorts. Much of what we eat ends up in the
bloodstream and certain things can injure the blood vessels. One way that the
blood vessels are injured is through the action of oxidants sometimes called
reactive oxygen species. In fact, atherosclerosis involves various pathways of
oxidative damage. Antioxidants, on the other hand, are the heroes of the blood
Dark chocolate neutralizes chemicals that would otherwise harm the blood
vessels. The main antioxidants in chocolate are polyphenols which are similar to
the antioxidants found in green or black tea. These plant polyphenols can
neutralize reactive oxygen species such as superoxide. About three ounces of
pure dark chocolate contains the same amount of polyphenols as one cup of black
or green tea. Moreover, the beneficial effect of cocoa on LDL oxidation is
roughly equal to that of red wine and tea. Therefore, chocolate has other
beneficial effects on blood vessel health than simply its ability to improve
levels of plasma cholesterol.
Dark chocolate benefit extends to the suppression of appetite and weight
control. This may also help to elevate mood in the long term, as excess weight
and obesity are often
causes of depression. A recent study from Japanese researchers supports the
idea of chocolate being a weight control tool, finding that regular consumption
of cocoa was able to prevent obesity and
weight gain in animal
subjects. The study also showed that the body
weight and blood-lipid
levels were significantly lower in the cocoa-fed group than in the control
group. Analysis also showed that in the cocoa-diet group, metabolism and storage
of fats was restricted and the fat burning mechanism was increased. Cold pressed
dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants. It seems that very high regular
daily doses of antioxidants (over 100,000 ORACfn daily) may help the body get
rid of fat by repairing the free radical damage. Additionally, phenylethylamine
(PEA) improves mood, which in turn decreases food cravings. Food addiction is
like drug addiction; consequently, cocoa can minimize
food cravings and
addictions by delivering the right chemicals.
Tannin in cocoa may help to prevent tooth decay by reducing the growth of
plaque because the oxalic acid in chocolate appears to lower acid production.
"So, eating the world's favorite chocolate will not cause
tooth decay," stresses Dr. Kosinski. "Just remember to always brush your
Chocolate is a histamine blocker, helping decrease stomach acid and possibly
improving digestion. Experts point out that dark chocolate in the cellulose with
the promotion of intestinal peristalsis, helping digestion and gastrointestinal
function, while isoflavones inhibit intestinal chloride ion secretion, can
alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea. At the same time, dark chocolate in the
polyphenol composition, also can inhibit the intestinal intestinal protein,
chloride ion and water secretion and absorption, and slow down water loss and
prevent people from diarrhea and dehydration.
Experts recommend a daily consumption of adults not more than 100 grams,
children and young people between the two meals in a day or after exercise to
eat a lot of dark chocolate, each time 5 ~ 25 grams.
Dated 12 September 2011