Thursday, 28 July 2011

Is Dark Chocolate Good For Your Health?

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what’s healthy and what’s not. But one food which causes some confusion is chocolate. Because of its high calorie content, chocolate is often the first treat to be left off the shopping list when going on a diet. However, several studies have discovered that chocolate does have some redeeming health benefits. Not just any old chocolate though. It has to be dark chocolate and it must contain at least 70 percent cocoa solids.

Dark chocolate benefits

Dark chocolate has some distinct health advantages over milk chocolate which means you can eat a little each day without feeling guilty. Good quality dark chocolate contains a greater amount of cocoa, which is considered to be one of the world’s most beneficial ‘superfoods’.

Cocoa has high levels of antioxidants which are important for fighting off free-radicals, which can lead to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. It can also help with lowering blood pressure. The antioxidants found in a bar of dark chocolate are on a par with those found in red wine and are even greater than fruit juice.

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating around 6g of dark chocolate a day for two weeks can reduce blood pressure and the risk of diabetes. This particular study included people suffering from blood pressure problems or diabetes who were given either white or dark chocolate and then asked to swap. Those eating the dark chocolate found their blood pressure and insulin resistance had lowered. But eating white chocolate produced no effect.

Dark chocolate nutrition

Dark chocolate provides further nutrients which are beneficial for health. Besides its antioxidant properties, it also contains a good source of magnesium and some calcium.

Unfortunately, dark chocolate has a similar number of calories and fat content as milk chocolate. On average, 100g of milk chocolate contains 588 calories and 100g of dark chocolate has 544 calories, though this will obviously vary from bar to bar.

To get the most health benefits from dark chocolate, look for chocolate with a cocoa solids content of at least 70 percent. Some brands of dark chocolate don’t quite make the 70 percent mark, so check the ingredients carefully.

Some good quality dark chocolate brands to look out for include:

Lindt 70% Cocoa Dark Noir: Per 100g: 520 calories, 40g fat, 24g saturated fat and 28g of sugar.

Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate: Per 100g: 630 calories, 13.8g sugar, 53.5g fat of which 32.1g is saturated fat.

Tesco Finest Swiss 72% Dark Chocolate: Per 100g: 563 calories, 27g of sugar, 45.6g of fat of which 27.4g are saturates.


Lindt Excellence 85% cocoa Dark Extra Fine Chocolate: Per 100g: 521 calories, 46g of fat, 27g of saturated fat, 15g of sugar.

Divine Fairtrade Dark 70% Chocolate: Per 100g: 554 calories, 46.3g fat, 29.2g saturated fat.

Several supermarkets have their own brand dark chocolates, such as Tesco’s Finest Swiss 72% Plain Chocolate as shown above. Watch out though, because not all chocolate called ‘plain’ chocolate has such a high cocoa content.

Even if you are on a diet or just watching your weight, there is no harm in treating yourself to a little dark chocolate each day. But, as can be seen from the nutritional information, it’s still loaded with calories and unhealthy saturated fat. However, the greater cocoa content in dark chocolate means just a small square or two is usually enough to provide you with that chocolate hit.

© Diets and Calories 2011


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