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Health Benefits of Chocolate

No introductions are needed for this highly treasured food that dates back to 2000 BC. At that
time, the Maya from Central America, the first connoisseurs of chocolate, drank it as a bitter
fermented beverage mixed with spices or wine.

Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate
contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark
chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during
processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower-quality
chocolate may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate
does not contain any cocoa solids and is simply made of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

What are the benefits of dark chocolate?

1. Dark chocolate is a source of important minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, zinc,
phosphorus, and flavonols.
2. Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavonols that may help protect the heart. Dark
chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavonol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavonols
have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels
(also called the endothelium), thereby lowering blood pressure. Flavonols in cocoa found in dark
chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short-term studies; in the long run could reduce
the risk of diabetes.
3. Cocoa is high in fiber. In a small amount of dark chocolate (about an ounce), there is about
four grams of fiber.
4. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants which protect the skin from sun damage. The anti-
oxidants are found to improve blood flow to your skin and protect it from sun damage and UV rays.
5. Dark chocolate enhances your mood! Good news, If you feel better after eating dark chocolate,
there is a scientific reason for that. Dark chocolate has long been associated with feelings of
pleasure and enjoyment. These feelings may originate from what is called polyphenolic compounds.
Polyphenols are antioxidants that lower cortisol, a stress hormone.

As with any sweet treat, moderation is key. Recommended serving size is between one and two ounces.
Which is about 30 to 60 grams. That is a bigger amount than you think. For example, one ounce is
the equivalent of three thin squares of chocolate broken off from a bigger bar. Dark chocolate is
best savored slowly. A little bit goes a long way.

When choosing a quality healthy dark chocolate, you want to beware of marketing labels. Many
chocolates are labeled with all kinds of marketing words like an artisan, hand-crafted, and fine
chocolates. Instead, look at the ingredient label on the back. You want to choose chocolate with
high cacao content (greater than 70%), low sugar content, few additives, and overall ingredients, no
added flavor, no preservatives, and not labeled “dutched” or processed with alkali. Chocolate labeled
“processed with alkali” on the nutrition label is going to have fewer flavanols. There is nothing
unsafe with “dutching”, it may make the flavor more appealing to some but leads to a less healthy process.