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Dark Chocolate: Catching Up With Its 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, What is 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 fat.

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).

Health Benefits:

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 antioxidants.

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 vessel war.

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 teeth.”

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.

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