Is Darkish Chocolate Actually a Wholesome Meals? We requested RDs

You may think of dark chocolate as an organic food, but is that it? Before you bite into this piece of chocolate, understand why dark chocolate may not deserve the halo of health it has worn.

Chocolate may not be the nutritional equivalent of kale, but it’s widely lauded as a healthy food because of the antioxidants it contains. And there is data to suggest that chocolate, to be precise, dark, can be good for a body and a brain. However, before you believe that this gives you the license to peel mini Milky Ways with dark chocolate like Halloween, there are some restrictions.

The Truth About Dark Chocolate And Health Benefits From Scientific Studies

In a study of more than 13,000 people, those who ate dark chocolate every day had 57% fewer depressive symptoms than those who did not eat chocolate. That adults do better on cognitive tests if they eat cocoa flavanols (the specific plant nutrients in chocolate) before the test. And following the Framingham Heart Study, among 2,800 people over 60, those who ate and drank the most flavonoid-rich foods like dark chocolate also had the lowest risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Still other studies, such as one published in the British Medical Journal, link regular eating chocolate in healthy individuals to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Then why wouldn’t you eat dark chocolate? It turns out that while dark chocolate is healthier than, say, a piece of chocolate cake or a bowl of chocolate ice cream, one of the world’s most popular so-called healthy candies has a darker side. Here’s what you need to know so that you can make an informed decision about whether to eat chocolate for your health.

The health benefits of dark chocolate compared to white chocolate and milk chocolate

The main ingredient in dark chocolate is cocoa, which is basically the raw form of chocolate. According to a study in Nutrients, cocoa was already known as 600 BC. Used to improve health. Pure cocoa is nutritious and contains fiber, minerals and flavonoids. “All of these can have positive effects on the health of your heart and circulatory system,” says Jessie Shafer, nutritionist in RD, Colorado.

If you compare dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa to white and milk chocolate, which contains little to no of these nutrients, you find that milk chocolate and white chocolate not only contain less cocoa than dark chocolate, but also contain a lot more sugar as well Dairy products (like liquid milk, powdered milk, or condensed milk) and other ingredients like soy lecithin. “This increases the sugar and fat content, but often makes these chocolates tastier, especially for people who don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate,” says Shafer.

White chocolate is actually a misnomer. It’s considered chocolate by culinary standards, but technically it’s not chocolate since it doesn’t contain cocoa nibs or cocoa powder, Shafer says. Instead, it’s made from cocoa butter mixed with sugar and dairy products.

Is dark chocolate actually healthy? Take an expert

According to experts, it is controversial whether chocolate should be advertised as a “healthy” food. Although studies suggest that dark chocolate offers some benefits, experts, including those who believe the healthiest diet is a whole plant-based approach, do not advocate dark chocolate.

“Studies might show a link between cocoa flavanols or chocolate and a particular health outcome, but the link does not mean a cause,” said Rosane Oliveira, Ph.D., visiting professor of public health at the University of California Davis and president of the Plant-Based Life Foundation .

The pro-chocolate studies are also being conducted on the general population or on people who do not have a plant-based diet, and so may only be relevant to people who eat the standard American diet. “If the only vegetables people eat are (fried) potatoes and tomatoes, any food higher in phytonutrients (like chocolate) can have health benefits,” she says. She notes that similar results can be seen in studies on olive oil and red wine.

Chocolate is high in unhealthy saturated fat, stimulants, and sugar.

Saturated fat in dark chocolate

Regarding saturated fat, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your intake to less than five percent of your total daily calories. “Saturated fat not only increases LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol), it also induces insulin resistance, which leads to the occurrence of many chronic diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease and cardiovascular disease can. to name just a few, ”says Oliveira.

Still, it’s difficult to keep saturated fat below five percent when you eat chocolate. That’s because chocolate, even cocoa nibs, is high in saturated fat. A single 1-ounce square of 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate contains 12 grams of fat, Shafer says.

If you love dark chocolate, you could be reaching your maximum saturated fat. That means you need to be careful not to eat any other sources of saturated fat during the day, says Oliveira, adding that there are better whole-food sources of fat like chia seeds and flax seeds, with more sugar and no added sugar and no Things like stimulants, namely caffeine.

Caffeine in dark chocolate

The most talked about sources of caffeine are things like coffee and energy drinks. Almost no one mentions the caffeine in chocolate – “an ounce of dark chocolate is about an eighth the amount of a cup of coffee,” says Shafer – but it’s there, as is another stimulant called theobromine.

However, caffeine is a drug and has a direct impact on how you sleep. Preventing people from falling asleep easily and / or sleeping soundly all night. Theobromine, found in cocoa nibs and cocoa powder, can also negatively affect sleep, and sleep disorders can lead to health problems.

“How badly someone sleeps has been linked to a higher risk of being overweight and obese and developing diseases like type 2 diabetes and dementia,” says Oliveira, adding that dark chocolate is the highest amount compared to other varieties of caffeine and the higher the quality of the chocolate, the higher the amount of caffeine. Worse? Two factors, age and a genetic mutation that is found in roughly half the population, slow the clearance of caffeine in your body.

Caffeine also robs calcium from the diet. Also make animal protein and sodium, and the more of these three things you have in your diet, the more calcium you will excrete from your kidneys. “This is a problem for women who are concerned about the risk of osteoporosis after menopause,” says Oliveira.

Sugar in dark chocolate

Now for the added sugar that the World Health Organizations recommend limiting to less than five percent of total calories per day. The problem with added sugar? “A diet high in added sugar is a risk factor for all kinds of health problems, including unwanted weight gain, inflammation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more,” says Shafer.

While the added sugar in chocolate is a minor issue Compared to its other ingredients, it depends on how dark chocolate fits into your diet. If you used it to replace an after-dinner dessert, “you might be eating less sugar than you were before,” Shafer says. But if you are only adding chocolate to your diet because you think it is healthy and not eliminating anything else, then the added sugar is a problem.

Is dark chocolate actually healthy? The judgment

Now that you know the problems surrounding chocolate, it is up to you to answer this question for yourself. If you are eating it for the health halo of chocolate, it could be the wrong reason. “When it comes to health, I put dark chocolate in the same category as red wine,” says Shafer. “There are nuances that make red wine a better choice than white wine or beer or brandy, but to say that dark chocolate is as healthy as we interpret sweet potatoes or beans as healthy is not exactly correct.”

Each food should be rated among similar choices, Shafer says. However, she says that if you choose dark chocolate because you like it and want to use it to replace other low-nutrient, high-sugar foods you eat and curb sweet cravings to prevent further sweet food, it is possible a smart choice.

In the meantime, Oliveira encourages people to view chocolate as a treat that may or may not be suitable for your diet. “You only know the risks of eating,” she says, comparing it to drinking red wine despite the health risks.

There are also many other plant-based foods that have higher phytonutrient levels and higher antioxidant capacity compared to cocoa or chocolate. “Nobody has to add cocoa or chocolate to their diet to benefit from the health benefits of various phytonutrients,” says Oliveira.

What to look for in dark chocolate

However, if you want to indulge in dark chocolate, there are a few guidelines to follow. First, look for a product with a high amount of cocoa – usually 70 percent or more – and no added dairy, soy lecithin, sugar alcohol, or palm oil, Shafer says. Also, look for one with 10 grams or less of added sugar.

Think about where the chocolate comes from. Because people love chocolate, there is a high demand for cocoa trees, which are grown in tropical climates along the world’s equator. “Whenever there is a high demand for an agricultural product, there is a risk of deforestation, soil contamination or deterioration, and high levels of herbicide and pesticide use,” says Shafer. If possible, choose USDA Organic Certified Dark Chocolate and Fair Trade Certified, which indicates the cocoa farmers received a fair wage. And of course, check that the chocolate is vegan.

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