Chocolate can be good for you – it almost sounds too good to be true! Yet, in the last few years, the myth that chocolate has no nutritional value has been shown to be false. Dark chocolate – when consumed in moderation and within one’s recommended daily caloric requirements – can have numerous health benefits.
Chocolate’s Health Benefits
- Chocolate is a rich source of magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc.
- Chocolate contains polyphenols and flavonoids, which are rich sources of antioxidants.
- The abundance of nutrients and antioxidants in chocolate can help explain why moderate consumption has been linked to heart health, reduced inflammation, increased cognitive function, and decreased risk of hypertension.
Tips for Choosing Chocolate
To reap the health benefits of chocolate, make sure to read labels. Presented below are two real-world labels to show that not all chocolate is equal.
Remember these three tips next time you are at the store:
- For the most benefit, choose chocolate that has cocoa mass or cocoa liquor listed as the first ingredient. The ingredient listed first on foods is the most abundant. Cocoa mass and cocoa liquor both contain the beneficial antioxidants found in chocolate.
- Look for dark chocolate with 70% or greater cocoa, which studies have linked to higher health-promoting properties.
- Try to limit chocolate products containing artificial flavors or ingredients. These type of ingredients often indicate less cocoa is included and more processing was required. The more chocolate is processed, the less beneficial health properties remain.
Cooking with Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, particularly artisanal chocolates, are popular with chocolate lovers for their unique flavor profile and decadent taste, but selecting dark chocolate for cooking requires special consideration.
Helpful baking tips:
- Avoid using fancy artisanal chocolate. The qualities you love when consumed at room temperature may not survive the oven.
- Select chocolate with greater than 35% cocoa/cacao.
- Rule of thumb: more sugar means less cocoa solids. You want more cocoa solids for quality dark chocolate.
- Select chocolate with less than 50% sugar to prevent foods from being too sweet.