By: Taylor Chan ’16, University Health Center Dietetic Student Volunteer
Bars, chips, and kisses — what do these all have in common? They are all forms of chocolate! Between Valentine’s Day and Easter, springtime is a wonderful, chocolate-filled season. Rest assured, chocolate CAN be enjoyed and fit into a healthy diet!
As you find yourself enjoying this tasty treat during this time of year, consider these fun, nutritious tidbits of information.
When you think of chocolate, there are three main types that you think of: Dark, Milk, and White. Here’s what it all means:
- Dark chocolate is made of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, with little to no milk. It’s known to have a semi-sweet, bitter flavor.
- Milk chocolate is made of the same components as dark chocolate, but with more milk and dairy fat to give it its creaminess and lighter color.
- White chocolate tends to be the sweetest and is made of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. Its lack of cocoa solids is what gives it its white color.
In terms of nutrition, these three types of chocolate roughly contain the same amount of protein, sugar, fat, and calories, so feel free to choose whichever you prefer!
A note on the fat in chocolate: Chocolate has a reputation of being a fatty food. This is because there is natural, saturated fat in cacao called stearic acid. Recently, studies have suggested that stearic acid does not significantly elevate blood cholesterol levels as much as other saturated fats might. However, it is important to keep in mind that some chocolates may contain added fat (milk fat, partially hydrogenated oils, coconut, and palm oils) which is a source extra flavor and calories.
While there is nothing wrong treating yourself to some milk or white chocolate, dark options contain more cocoa solids – so they tend to contain more antioxidants, which are molecules that help prevent cell damage. Flavonoid, the main antioxidant in dark chocolate, has several health benefits including:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL)
- Anti-inflammatory action
- Elevated cognitive function
- Improved mood
Generally, the higher percent cacao (as labeled on some chocolate packaging), the more antioxidants it likely contains!
To help you out a little, chocolates from the highest to the lowest flavonoid content are:
- Natural cocoa powder
- Unsweetened baking chocolate
- Dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips
- Milk chocolate and chocolate syrup
Bottom line: Not only is chocolate delicious, but in moderation, it can be healthful and fit into a varied, balanced diet!