Eating dark chocolate is good for you. For many chocoholics – like me – it is one of the greatest delights in life. But you have to be aware where it comes from and how it is produced. You have to look at the label. Otherwise you are still eating a lump of processed sugar and unsaturated fats.
More and more chocolate factories are producing organic and fair trade chocolate. Some of them have even become luxury brands. Like To’ak Chocolate, which produces one of the most expensive chocolates and therefore fine foods in the world.
The most expensive chocolate ever sold according to th Guinness World Records was for 6268.50 GBP/kg and was achieved by Attimo Chocolate Zurich (Switzerland), in Zürich, Switzerland, on 31 October 2019.
A 80 gram chocolate bar of ‘La Chuorsa’ costs CHF 640 (501.75 GBP). The ingredients include saffron grown in the Swiss village Mund, crystallised orange crisps and 68% Chuao chocolate from Venezuela.
In addition there is evidence that dark chocolate is good for you. For example, that chocolate has positive effects on your brain.
Finally, the scientific name for chocolate, Theobroma, means “food of the gods”. So if it is good for gods, who are we to contradict that this should not also be good for us?
So it seems there are many benefits of eating dark chocolate. But not everybody seems to agree that eating dark chocolate only has positive health benefits. So in this post I will look at the pros and and discuss how you can prevent or minimize the cons of eating dark chocolate by only buying organic fair trade dark chocolate.
Let us first look at thee different types of chocolate.
Types of Chocolate
Chocolate is a preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds. Recent genetic studies suggest the most common variety of the plant originated in the Amazon basin and was gradually transported by humans throughout South and Central America.
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls dark chocolate “sweet chocolate”, and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.
What is The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?
Cacao refers to a tropical plant and its beans that is native to South America: the Theobroma cacao tree. Roasted cacao is used to make cocoa powder (for hot chocolate) , cocoa butter, and other products. So South Americans (and Africans) grow cacao; people all over the world drink cocoa.
A higher amount of cocoa solids indicates more bitterness. Semi-sweet chocolate is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content.
Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter and vanilla are added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking. It is also known to last for two years if stored properly.
2. Unsweetened Chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate , also referred to as bitter or bitter chocolate . It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a robust , deep chocolate flavor.
It is typically utilized in baking or other products to which sugar and other ingredients are added. Raw chocolate, often mentioned as raw cacao, is usually dark and a minimum of 75% cacao.
Poorly tempered or untempered chocolate may have whitish spots on the bittersweet chocolate part, called chocolate bloom; it’s a sign that sugar or fat has separated thanks to poor storage. It is not toxic and may be safely consumed.
3. Milk and White Chocolate
Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally is made with condensed milk or milk powder.
White chocolate is produced with cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. It has no cocoa solids.
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
The opinions on whether or not dark chocolate has health benefits seems to be split. I will end with the cons and disadvantages as mentioned on Wikipedia and start with the the pros as are mentioned for instance on Healthline.
The Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Your Health
1. Dark Chocolate is Very Nutritious.
It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is full with minerals. Dark chocolate contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and furthermore also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
100-grams of milk chocolate is an excellent source (over 19% of the Daily Value) of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and the dietary minerals, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Chocolate is a good source (10–19% the Daily Value) of calcium, magnesium and iron.
The fatty acid component in cocoa and dark chocolate is also excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and mono-unsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fat.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small if you compare it to coffee.
Of course, as described above, it still comes with calories and moderate amounts of sugar, so should be consumed in moderation.
2. dark Chocolate is a Source of Antioxidants
Raw, unprocessed cacao beans are among the highest-scoring foods with antioxidants that have been tested.
Organic dark chocolate contains many compounds that are biologically active. They primarily function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.
Cocoa and dark chocolate has more antioxidants than any other fruits tested. Included blueberries and acai berries that are famous of being active antioxidants.
Cacao retains more of the natural antioxidants of the beans themselves compared to cocoa.
3. Improves Blood Flow and Lowers Blood Pressure
Studies indicate that cocoa and dark chocolate may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. However, the effects are not really significant.
The flavanols in dark chocolate may be good for the lining of arteries. They stimulate the production of nitric oxide (NO).
One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
4. Raises ‘Good’ Cholesterol and Protects LDL (‘Bad Cholesterol’) from Oxidation
Eating dark chocolate is good for your heart. It can improve several important risk factors related to heart disease.
Researchers found that its decreases oxidized LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol – Low-Density Lipoprotein) in men. It also increases HDL (“good” cholesterol – High-Density Lipoprotein). Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are related to lower risk of a heart disease.
Cocoa contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that do make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage (and becoming LDL).
5. Dark Chocolate May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Dark chocolate appears to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL (which may lead to ‘bad cholesterol’).
In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease
6. May Protect Your Skin From the Sun
The bioactive components in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin. The flavonols can protect your skin against sun damage. But is also can improve blood flow to the skin. This is good for skin density and skin hydration.
So if you like sun bathing, make sure you eat dark chocolate (but don’t let it melt!).
7. Chocolate Could Have Positive Effects on Brain Function
Dark chocolate is also brain food. It may also improve the brain function. In cocoa there are stimulants like caffeine and theobromine that are responsible for this. Dark chocolate improves blood flow to the brain. This can especially help older people with mental impairment issues. Dark chocolate helps to improve verbal fluency.
Possible Disadvantages of Dark Chocolate for your Health
1. Chocolate Is Full Of Calories and Sugar
Eating too much energy-rich food, such as dark chocolate, can of course lead to weight gain and obesity.
Raw chocolate is high in cocoa butter. This is a fat which is removed during chocolate refining and added back then during the manufacturing process. Manufacturers may also add other fats, sugars, and milk, all of which increase the caloric content of chocolate.
Especially milk chocolate is said to be unhealthy. A 100-gram serving of milk chocolate has 540 calories. 59% are carbohydrates (52% as sugar and 3% as dietary fiber), 30% is fat and 8% is protein.
So, it is better to stick to dark chocolate.
2. Chocolate May Be A Factor For Heartburn
Chocolate may be a factor for heartburn in some people because it contains theobromine. This may affect the esophageal sphincter muscle in a way that permits stomach acids to enter the esophagus causing heartburn.
Both theobromine and alkaloids in chocolate such as phenethylamine can cause physiological effects in humans if they overdose. This is not so strange if you think of the fact that theobromine is toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats.
In addition, daily intake of 50–100 g cocoa (which contains 0.8–1.5 g theobromine) by humans can cause sweating, trembling and severe headache.
Chocolate and cocoa also contains moderate to high amounts of ‘oxalate’, which may increase someone’s risk for kidney stones.
So as with most of the nice things in life also here moderation in eating chocolate is required.
3. Chocolate Can Contain Heavy Metal Lead
During cultivation and production, chocolate may absorb the heavy metal lead from the environment, but the total amounts typically eaten are less than the tolerable daily limit for lead consumption, according to a World Health Organization report from 2010.
However, there are reports that say that chocolate may be a significant source of lead ingestion for children. Especially if consumption is above 50 g of dark chocolate this already passes the daily lead intake limit.
So you really need to understand where the cacao used for the chocolate comes from. Chocolate has to be certified organic.
4. Allergies And Acne
Allergic reactions from chocolate in children is also possible. In addition, dark chocolate can cause acne in men.
5. Chocolate Contains Caffeine
A one-tablespoon (5 grams) serving of dry unsweetened cocoa powder has 12.1 mg of caffeine and a 25-g single serving of dark chocolate has 22.4 mg of caffeine. Although a single 7 oz. serving of coffee may contain 80–175 mg, studies have shown psychoactive effects in caffeine doses as low as 9 mg, and a dose as low as 12.5 mg was shown to have effects on cognitive performance.
Again, eating chocolate in moderation is the clue.
So is Dark Chocolate Good For You?
For me the benefits of organic dark chocolate outweigh the cons. As with everything eat it in small portions and moderation. And you just have to make sure you buy the best quality organic and fair trade dark chocolate available in the market. Read the labels on chocolate products because they can guide you to buying chocolate that is good for you..
Some manufacturers provide the percentage of chocolate in a finished chocolate product as a label quoting percentage of “cocoa” or “cacao” (see the insert above in this post on what the difference is). The percentage represents the combined percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the bar. It is not just the percentage of cocoa solids.
The Belgian AMBAO certification also indicates that no non-cocoa vegetable fats have been used for making the chocolate. Organic or fair trade certified chocolates also indicate that on their labels.
Fair Trade of Chocolate
The widespread use of children in cocoa production is controversial, not only for the concerns about child labor and exploitation. The children may be also subjected to trafficking or slavery. Up to 12,000 of the 200,000 children working in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, are estimated to be victims of this.
Most attention on this subject has focused on West Africa, which collectively supplies 69 percent of the world’s cacao, and Côte d’Ivoire in particular, which supplies 35 percent of the world’s cacao.
Thirty percent of children under age 15 in sub-Saharan Africa are child laborers, mostly in agricultural activities including cacao farming.
In the 2000s, some chocolate producers began to engage in fair trade initiatives, to address concerns about the marginalization of cacao laborers in developing countries.
Traditionally, Africa and other developing countries received low prices for their exported commodities such as cacao, which caused poverty to abound.
Fair trade’s goals is to establish a system of direct trade from developing countries to counteract this system thta is unfair and causing more inequality.
One solution for fair labor practices is for farmers to become part of an agricultural cooperative. Cooperatives pay farmers a fair price for their cacao so farmers have enough money for food, clothes, and school fees.
One of the main principles of fair trade is that farmers receive a fair price. This, however, does not mean that the larger amount of money paid for fair trade cacao goes directly to the farmers.
The effectiveness of fair trade has been questioned. Workers on fair trade farms often have a lower standard of living than on similar farms outside the fair trade system.
The Ecuadorian company To’ak Chocolate, founded in 2013 by Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer, is a luxury brand producing and selling organic Fair Trade chocolate. To’ak’s mission is to change the way we consume chocolate. It also is one of the most expensive chocolates in the world.
Prices can go up to around €200 for a single 50-gram bar of chocolate. Their special Art Series edition is a collaboration with prominent Ecuadorian artists and has a waiting list of 6 weeks and costs €446.
Use and Recipes of Chocolate
Much of the chocolate bought today is in the form of dark chocolate. We consume it in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block.
Chocolate bars are eaten as snacks.
Gifts of chocolate in different shapes (such as hearts, eggs, Father Christmas, coins) are traditional on certain holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Hanukkah.
Chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world. And it is used for many food variations, including as a flavoring ingredient. Like desserts, cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, candies and chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate is finally also used in cold and hot beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate. Also some alcoholic drinks us chocolate, such as creme de cacao and Baileys.
Main source: Wikipedia