Dark chocolate is healthier than you think
According to Julianna Tan, a chocolatier in Saskatoon and co-owner of Those Girls at the Market, “we have come to associate chocolate with processed junk food that is primarily made of white sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and artificial flavours and colours… The main ingredient (cocoa) is not at all candy.” Cocoa solids contain a variety of nutrients that support your physical and mental health.
Types of Dark Chocolate
Chocolate comes in three varieties: milk, white and dark. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter while dark chocolate is primarily made from the solids of the cocoa bean. Milk chocolate is a mix of both.
To maximize chocolate’s health benefits, stick to dark chocolate because it contains the highest density of cocoa solids and the least amount of sugar.
Dark chocolate supplies a variety of essential micronutrients. A chocolate bar made from 85 percent cocoa solids contains roughly 98 percent of your daily manganese, 89 percent of your daily copper and 67 percent of your iron. It also contains more than 20 percent of your daily magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and potassium.
Chocolate Antioxidant and Flavanol Content
Berries and bright-coloured fruit have a reputation for being a source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help your body fight oxidative damage, boost your immune system and delay aging. It may be surprising to learn that, gram per gram, dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than blueberries.
Dark chocolate also contains a phytonutrient called flavanol. Flavanol stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which helps your arteries relax and improves your blood pressure.
The flavanols in dark chocolate, together with another chemical called methylxanthine, stimulate blood flow in your brain, which may improve cognitive function, mood and memory.
“[Dark Chocolate] can be enjoyed as a healthy part of our diets and has positive effects on both our bodies and our mental state,” says Julianna. “From lowering blood pressure to increasing feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, chocolate is an incredible food, which can (and should!) be savoured every day.”
If you want to include chocolate in your diet for its health benefits, look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids. Save milk and white chocolate as treats for special occasions.