With Valentine’s Day approaching, chocolate sales are sure to be climbing.
Claims of dark chocolate’s health benefits are popular in the media this time of year. So what’s all the hype about?
Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa solids (usually 70% or more). These solids contain antioxidants called flavonols.1 In contrast, white chocolate is made with cocoa butter and is missing these cocoa solids, which are associated with dark chocolate’s health benefits. A few of the potential health benefits of dark chocoalte include reducing blood pressure1,2 and improving inflammation.2
Learn more about cacao here and see what the fruit that the beans come from looks like (hint: they look much different than you would expect!).
Baking a chocolaty treat for your Valentine using cocoa powder?
It is important to use the correct version in a recipe to ensure it rises properly. Note the difference between regular cocoa powder and Dutch-process cocoa powder. Regular cocoa is acidic. To mellow the flavour and reduce acidity, cocoa may be treated with an alkalizing agent (such as potassium carbonate). This creates Dutch-process cocoa powder which has a darker appearance. While the flavour of Dutch-process cocoa is preferable to many, this additional processing results in the cocoa having a much lower concentration of antioxidants.3
So should you eat dark chocolate to improve your health?
In the end, what matters the most is enjoying whatever chocolate you choose – dark, milk, or white. If you keep your consumption to a few squares at a time, it is unlikely to make a significant impact on your health either way. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate, eating it just for the potential health benefits isn’t going to be worth it. Choose another treat that you will savour and enjoy instead!
Looking for a quick and easy dark chocolate dessert sure to impress? Try this chocolate pate!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
By Melissa Baker, MHSc, RD
- Haritha, K., Kalyani, L., & Rao, A. L. (2014). Health benefits of dark chocolate. Journal of Advanced Drug Delivery, 1(4), 184-94.
- Higginbotham, E. & Taub, P. (2015). Cardiovascular Benefits of Dark Chocolate? Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine, 17(12):54.
- Payne, M. J., Hurst, W. J., Miller, K. B., Rank, C., & Stuart, D. A. (2010). Impact of fermentation, drying, roasting, and Dutch processing on epicatechin and catechin content of cacao beans and cocoa ingredients. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(19), 10518-10527.