Dark Chocolate and You

Dark chocolate is great. I used to only like milk chocolate (and of course, I still do) – but I believe if you get a good dark chocolate, it can be as or more enjoyable than a nice milk chocolate. Dark chocolate also has health benefits that milk chocolate doesn’t have (this always pops up in the news, as if it’s a new discovery).

Why is dark chocolate healthy? Let’s take a look. Researchers are still trying to elucidate the exact mechanism of action, but there is a lot of evidence to back up dark chocolate’s health benefits. There seem to be several antioxidants in dark chocolate that are absorbed into the bloodstream with relative ease. These antioxidants promote a lower blood pressure (usually a good thing, especially for those of us with the typical Western diet). For example: epicatechin, an antioxidant found in cocoa (a cocoa phenol), can be found in the blood post-chocolate consumption. If the chocolate is dark – these antioxidant levels are particularly high. However, the blood level is much lower if the dark chocolate is consumed with milk, or if the chocolate is milk chocolate. I’m unsure as to why this is the case, but I would propose that it may be some chelation of the antioxidant – similar to the reason iron doesn’t absorb well in the presence of calcium. But I digress; the important thing is that you keep your milk and your chocolate seperate if you’re looking for health benefits!

Two different studies, via WebMD:

Taubert’s team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure — on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84.

Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate.

Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). Those who ate white chocolate did not.

In the second study, Serafini’s team signed up seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate.

An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood. And they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all.

As far as how much to eat on a daily basis? I’ve read everything from 1.6oz to 100g (~3.5oz). It’s up to you to decide, really. Can you afford the extra calories? Do you have room in your daily intake to eat that much? Do you even want to make dark chocolate a daily routine?

Whatever you decide, make sure that you enjoy what you eat – because that’s half the battle. What am I currently eating? Grenada Organic Dark Chocolate, from the Grenada Chocolate Company. Its a surprisingly good chocolate; smooth, creamy, but strong. It’s typically single origin (Grenadian cocoa), but it’s currently a double origin chocolate because a significant amount of Grenada’s cocoa trees were destroyed in Hurricane Ivan (2004). Hopefully they’ll be able to return to usual in the near future!

My go-to dark chocolate, however, is any of the Amano lines of dark chocolate, one of the few small chocolate producers in the US (most is produced by Hershey, Nestle, etc). This is brilliant chocolate – I discovered it through Wine.Woot (My favorite? The Jembrana and the sold-out Cuyagua). They will occasionally come onto Wine.woot with a coupon code, so that’s when I buy – it’s a very expensive chocolate otherwise; even with the discount it’s a steep price, but worth it.

Needless to say, I eat it sparingly – but then again I’m not trying to eat 1.6oz a day – that’s a lot of dark chocolate! I just want to eat what I feel like, and enjoy it while I do. What’s your favorite dark (or milk!) chocolate?

Sources:

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20030827/dark-chocolate-is-healthy-chocolate

http://www.grenadachocolate.com/

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Hawkeye said,

    I can’t stand dark chocolate, but that might just be a childhood prejudice, i should try some now that I’m older and have different tastes. Milk chocolate nowadays is moving towards no cocoa in it at all kind of like the white chocolate gimick. It’s a sad and unhealthy cost cutting measure.


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