Delicious and Good for You?: Health Benefits of Chocolate

Just about everyone loves to indulge in a decadent piece of chocolate now and then. Is it possible this guilty pleasure is also good for you?

Chocolate comes from the seed of the Theobroma cacao (not cocoa) tree, a small tree native to tropical rainforests in Central and South America. Although the seeds of the cacao trees have a bitter taste the seeds can be fermented and processed to become the product we enjoy. Most of the chocolate we eat (including dark chocolate) is made by adding fat and sugar or, in the case of milk chocolate, milk. White chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar, and sugar. Since cacao seeds come from the cacao tree, they can be considered a fruit. The chocolate we consume, however, is processed and combined with sugar, milk, butter, and/or fat and would not typically fall into the fruit category.

Dark Chocolate

Dark because of the absence of milk, dark chocolate provides many of the same benefits as dark vegetables and fruits. It contains antioxidants which act as protection against damage from the aging process, particularly damage to the heart and cells. Dark chocolate has been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Additionally medical experts such as Dr. Timothy Brantley (featured on the Rachael Ray Show) explain that it contains the mood enhancer serotonin which can act as an anti-depressant. Dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of pure cocoa than its white and milk counterparts which is why it has health benefits the others, sadly, do not. In order to reap the benefits of dark chocolate, look for bars that have 70 percent of more cocoa.

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate does not contain the high level of antioxidants that dark chocolate does, nor does it carry the same health benefits. The ingredients added to milk chocolate (milk, sugar, fat) are the same ingredients that inhibit its health benefits. It contains less cocoa than dark chocolate, and adding milk seems to negate the benefits from antioxidants the chocolate originally had. Milk chocolate also sometimes contains artificial ingredients reducing the health benefits even further.

White Chocolate

Unfortunately, at least for white chocolate fans, white chocolate only contains cocoa butter, no actual cocoa, and does not enjoy any of the health benefits of dark chocolate. Additionally, it contains sugar, milk solids, and flavorings such as vanilla. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order for a food to labeled “chocolate” it must contain cocoa solids, so many don’t consider white chocolate to be a real form of chocolate at all.

Foods Made With Chocolate

Only pure dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cocoa, has consistently been found to contain health benefits. Though chocolate cake and chocolate pudding pie might taste great and put you in a good mood temporarily (at least while you’re eating it), it’s unlikely you’re reaping any real health benefit from your treat. Sorry.

Leave a Comment