Milk chocolate, unlike bitter dark chocolate, is definitely not the healthiest way to get your cacao. It contains very little cacao, often less than 10 percent. Instead, the majority of what you are eating are added sweeteners, dairy products, and other less healthful, refined ingredients.

Fortunately, there is also a healthier version of chocolate. You’ve probably heard of dark bitter chocolate before. It certainly won’t sweeten your day, but it will provide your body with unimaginable health benefits. That is the answer to a question you might ask: Why do people love this chocolate when it’s so bitter?

In this article, you will discover all the hidden charms and benefits that come from consuming this type of chocolate. We have no doubt that from now on this superfood will become an integral part of your diet. Once you get used to its bitter taste, you will never let it out of your hand again.

What are the properties of dark chocolate and how does it differ from milk chocolate?

Dark bitter chocolate is the true superfood and not the standard issue and over processed candy bars found in grocery stores at the checkout area. It is high in pure cacao and that is where the superfood status comes in to play.

Milk chocolate has milk added to it, in the form of milk solids and fat. It also usually has a lower percentage of cacao (from 10-20%) than dark chocolate. The popular Hershey’s milk chocolate bar (perfect for making s’mores) has 11 percent ca­cao. The FDA requires a bar to have 10 percent cacao in it to be la­beled “chocolate.”

Dark chocolate has no milk at all and may contain anywhere from 55 to 99 percent cacao, an amount usually noted on the wrapper.

When we refer to dark chocolate in this article, we mean any chocolate with a cacao percentage over 70% (which effectively excludes milk chocolate and white chocolate). Dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content provides the healthiest compounds.

The darker the chocolate, the less room for sugar. Milk chocolate contains about twice as much sugar as the darkest choco­late.  Unfortunately, the chocolate Americans love most is loaded with sugar, fat and calories.

What makes dark chocolate healthy?

cocoa content in dark chocolate

Dark chocolate (with 70 per cent cocoa solids) contains useful amounts of magnesium, copper and iron. Also, the main ingredient in dark chocolate are cocoa beans that are chockfull of polyphenols and antioxidants and rich in flavonoids.

Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair cell damage. The great news is that it appears we, too, get these same benefits when we eat flavonoid – containing foods such as dark chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.

Tests at Kings College in London have shown that dark chocolate has the same antioxidant activity as fruit and vegetables.

What are the health benefits of consuming bitter chocolate?

The health benefits are attributed to the fact that it contains high levels of flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants. This type of chocolate appears to contain more flavonoids that any other food, in fact it contains about five times as much antioxidant activity as do blueberries. It also contains much more flavonoids than nuts, fruits, vegetables, red wine and berries.

bitter dark chocolate and health

Therefore, dark chocolate:

Lowers heart disease risk

Research at the University of California found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate may lower heart disease risk, and a 2006 Dutch study showed that dark chocolate might also lower blood pressure. The dark chocolate group also had a drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol (in comparison to white chocolate group). Eating this type of chocolate will also improve blood flow to the brain and heart.

It curbs insulin resistance

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2005 that flavonoids in cacao rich chocolate help to improve insu­lin resistance, an inability of the body to respond properly to insulin, thereby leading to diabetes. The flavonoids’ effect on blood vessels may be very helpful for diabetic patients, because vascular problems are a common complication with diabetes.

Helps you to control how much you eat

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? The bitter flavor of chocolate isn’t typically something that anyone dances in the street about. However, this aspect of dark chocolate can actually help you control how much you eat. And this can occur through gastrointestinal hunger hormones after you eat— or even smell—dark chocolate.

Prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar

With a low glycemic index, it will not cause sudden jumps in blood sugar.

Helps create positive feelings (makes you happy)

Cocoa also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps create positive feelings by making serotonin.

Despite everything, most people like milk chocolate, even if they eat it in the closet, in the dark!

Important facts you should be aware of when eating dark chocolate

  • Avoid drinking milk before of after eating dark chocolate. A study at the University of Glasgow found that dark chocolate boosted levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream by 20 per cent for 4 hours but milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with a glass of milk did not. Milk dilutes this beneficial effect severely.
  • It’s important to read the label and to know how much cacao and other added ingredients are in what you are eating.
  • High-quality dark chocolate is not a food you can eat liberally. It’s a health food you can enjoy in moderation. Keep in mind that chocolate is calorie dense. Eat too much of any type of chocolate, and you will gain weight. 100 grams of dark chocolate would have about 30 grams of fat from cocoa butter and about 500 calories.
  • As little as .25 ounce of daily dark chocolate is enough to provide health benefits. The equivalent of one (26 calories, .6 ounce) to two daily dark-chocolate Hershey’s Kisses is all that you need.
  • If you are used to milk chocolate, start with the highest cacao percentage you enjoy and work your way toward darker, higher-cacao chocolate. Therefore, if you find dark chocolate too bitter, gradually increase the dark chocolate content.

chocolate with high cocoa content

Closing thoughts

The health benefits we’ve discussed in this article are specific to cacao; therefore, milk chocolate may not be the best way to get the benefits.

If you want to add all of the amazing health benefits of dark chocolate you should eat it in moderation and select a product containing at least 70 percent cacao in the chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain. You should be incorporating this chocolate in your diet because it is loaded in flavonoids. Several famous foods are loaded in flavonoids, from blueberries to citrus fruit to red wine and green tea. But this chocolate is a richer source of flavonoids than any of them. Flavonoids make foods astringent and bitter. They are why red wine and green tea make your mouth feel dry; they are why the white of an orange is bitter.

A recent study indicates that only 10 grams of dark bitter chocolate a day may be all that you need to see positive benefits in blood pressure and reduce the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. The study showed that men with a cocoa consumption equal to that of 10 grams a day were half as likely as others to die from cardiovascular disease.

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