Dark Chocolate: Benefits and Nutrition
Everybody loves chocolate. Whether it’s part of a recipe, on its own or mixed in with a thousand different flavors, chocolate has remained a firm favorite with everyone from bodybuilders to kids. Yet, when we talk about chocolate, most people assume we’re talking about the milk chocolate variety. Unfortunately, this means most people are missing out on all the goodness that chocolate can bring.
In fact, dark chocolate is actually the healthiest and best form of chocolate – even coming packed with nutrients and plenty of health benefits. Not to mention that dark chocolate calories are much lower than milk and white chocolate options. How is this possible? Keep reading to find out this and much more, below.
Nutritional Information of Dark Chocolate
Let’s begin with the basics – dark chocolate is jam-packed full of goodness and just one, 100g bar contains:
- 604 calories
- 87 g of protein
- 06 g of fat
- 36 g of carbohydrates
- 00 g of dietary fiber
- 23 g of sugar
- 02 milligrams (mg) of iron
- 00 mg of magnesium
- 34 mg of zinc
To put the benefits of dark chocolate into perspective, in terms of your recommended daily intake (RDI), that same bar holds:
- 67% of the RDI for iron
- 58% of the RDI for magnesium
- 89% of the RDI for copper
- 98% of the RDI for manganese
As you can see, dark chocolate has plenty of nutritional benefits to enjoy. However, that same bar of chocolate is also relatively high in terms of carbohydrates, sugars and fat. Thus, the recommended portion size can be altered slightly, to accommodate this.
It’s also important to note that this is representative of the average dark chocolate bar, containing roughly between 70 and 85% of cacao. The nutritional information given above can therefore change according to this percentage, as well as what brand you choose, and the ingredients also included in each mixture.
Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Being rich in so many vitamins and minerals, it’s fair to say that studies have shown that eating some dark chocolate can provide some advantages to our diet as a whole. When consumed in moderation, dark chocolate (with a high percentage of cacao) is said to benefit us via the following:
- Dark chocolate provides ample antioxidants
You’ll be pleased to know that studies have shown that dark chocolate can introduce lots of good antioxidants to your body. Being rich in flavanols and polyphenols, both of which have been shown to aid and improve your digestion, chocolate has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Indeed, one study showed that cacao powder has more antioxidative properties than the lauded acai berries and blueberries. You should be aware, however, that both of these can also be detrimental when consumed in large doses.
- Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease
Once again, we can attribute this to the flavanols present in dark chocolate. Studies have shown that these can positively affect heart health, through the reduction of cholesterol and in helping to reduce high blood pressure.
The latter is caused by the influx of nitric oxide, provided by the flavanols, which help to widen the blood vessels and improve the overall blood flow of the patient in the study. The former was shown to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, which is the bad cholesterol known for causing blockages in the blood stream.
- Dark chocolate may act as an anti-inflammatory
While inflammatory agents in the body can play their part in protecting the body from germs and nasty bacteria, too much can damage your system and create an increase in risks associated with diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
One study, however, found that those with Type 2 Diabetes who ate 30g of a 84% cacao bar every day for 8 weeks were less likely to suffer from inflammatory markers. While more studies are required to gain a decent sample pool and to test the effects further, this study has shown a lot of promise into the anti-inflammatory effects of dark chocolate.
- Your brain function may improve as a result of eating dark chocolate
Over time, the brain naturally deteriorates in a similar fashion to the rest of the body, with many people suffering from Alzheimer’s as they get older. One study into the effects of chocolate, however, found that dark chocolate may be responsible for increasing the level of elasticity present in the brain. This, in turn, allows the brain to reorganize itself, in order to better itself and heal against injury or illness.
Risks of Dark Chocolate
While dark chocolate calories are fairly high in each bar, these are a known quantity and can be worked with to create a healthy diet that is also flavorful. Unfortunately, dark chocolate also has a number of ingredients which, in themselves, can negatively affect your health.
As we can see from the studies taken and discussed above, flavanols come with many benefits to the human body. However, the risks associated with flavanols have not been fully investigated and manufacturers have no legal requirement to print out the level of flavanols present in each dark chocolate bar. Thus, these should be eaten in moderation to reduce any risks that may be present in the flavanols present.
- Cacao butter
Cacao butter is one of the main factors that makes chocolate so delicious. However, it is also a fat, making this dark chocolate very dense in calories, and therefore dark chocolate contains the same risks as any other fatty food type. Eating less dark chocolate can reduce your risk of weight gain, as well as detrimental effects related to foods high in carbohydrates, fats and sugars.
Dark chocolate is said to contain 35mg of caffeine per ounce. While this may not seem like a lot, when you combine this with the 145mg of caffeine present in a standard cup of coffee, you might find that this amount can quickly and easily pile on. Be sure that, when you eat your dark chocolate, you aren’t doing so near to bed time, as this can hinder your ability to fall asleep, as well as affect your sleep once you’ve dropped off.
Dark Chocolate Vs Milk Chocolate
If you’re reading all of this and still wondering why you should choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, then concern yourself no more. While milk chocolate in itself has plenty of benefits and disadvantages for your health, one thing is for certain – dark chocolate is much healthier for your body and mind than milk chocolate.
To give you an idea of why, it’s important to first look at the nutritional makeup of milk chocolate. Since milk chocolate is traditionally only made with around 30% of cacao solids, versus the dark chocolate which holds up to 85%, you can be sure that dark chocolate has a more natural makeup, consisting mostly of cacao solids. Meanwhile, milk chocolate can consist of almost anything but usually includes lots of fatty, carb-loaded ingredients such as powdered milk and sugar or sweeteners.
These ingredients may make the chocolate taste smoother and sweeter, but they’re actually very calorie-dense, meaning you’re going to be eating a lot more calories in 30g of milk chocolate than you would if you chose 30g of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate also has more flavanols, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart-related issues and provide the body with lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. While milk chocolate does have some of these present, due to the reduction in cacao butter, the level of flavanols present is much lower, therefore the risks are greater than the health benefits.
Meanwhile, dark chocolate consists of a much higher level of cacao and therefore has a higher concentration of flavanols. Thus, dark chocolate is considered to be a much more healthy alternative, as the benefits can outweigh or be on a par with the health risks.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat A Day?
It’s important to remember that the amount of dark chocolate you eat depends mostly on the brand and taste of the chocolate you buy. Our recommendation is based on a chocolate bar with a cacao percentage of 70-85% and suggests that you eat between 30 and 60 grams per day (or 1 to 2 ounces).
This amount is enough to reap the benefits of dark chocolate (and the taste!) without risking the detrimental effects of eating too much dark chocolate. Any more than this, and it’s likely you’ll need to take part in some form of exercise to burn off the excess energy provided by the dark chocolate.