Dark chocolate: Calories and benefits
Dark chocolate: Calories and benefits
Chocolate is one of the most popular delicacies in the world, but its nutritional value varies considerably depending on the type.
As the dietitian Dr. explains. Devon Peart, of the Cleveland Clinic Canada branch in Toronto, says dark chocolate contains less added sugar and fat than white or milk chocolate.
“The texture of milk chocolate and dark chocolate is similar,” he says. “They basically consist of sugar, cocoa butter and cocoa solids. However, they differ significantly in their solids content. Dark chocolate contains from 50% to 90% solid cocoa, while milk contains 10-50%. On the contrary, white chocolate does not contain it at all “.
The nutritional value of dark chocolate is significantly affected by its cocoa solids content. “The higher their content, the less sugar chocolate contains,” he explains. “So if you choose a dark chocolate with 75% or 80% solid cocoa, you will consume much less sugar than one with a 50% content.”
In addition, the more cocoa solids a chocolate contains, the higher its flavonoid content. Flavonoids are a group of nutrients with strong antioxidant properties. Chocolate contains a type called flavanols.
Studies have shown that flavanols have many benefits for the heart. First of all, they are related to the production of nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood circulation. In this way they reduce blood pressure.
In addition, improved blood circulation helps protect against heart disease, says Dr. Peart. It also benefits mental skills because it provides the brain with more oxygen and nutrients.
Flavonols also fight cell damage caused by aging. There is also evidence that it may increase the sensitivity of cells to insulin. “The more sensitive the cells are to insulin, the lower the risk of developing diabetes,” she said.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate can also protect the skin from the damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Dark chocolate is also rich in certain trace elements, which are essential for important body functions. These include:
The iron Magnesium Zinc Phosphorus Copper
Iron is, among other things, necessary for hematopoiesis and protection against anemia, while copper stimulates its absorption. Magnesium helps protect against muscle cramps and facilitates quality sleep. Zinc is essential for a strong immune system, while phosphorus is needed for healthy bones and teeth, among other things.
As its name suggests, milk chocolate contains some form of milk. Dark chocolate, however, is generally considered non-dairy. Therefore, it is a good choice for those who are sensitive to milk and its products, but also for those who are fasting. However, because it may contain traces of milk, Dr. Peart recommends that you read its packaging carefully before buying it.
Dark chocolate is also richer in fiber than other sweets. Per 30 grams, it provides about 4 grams of fiber, according to Dr. Peart.
In addition, studies have shown that it can significantly improve mood. This benefit is due to a type of ingredient called polyphenolic compounds (polyphenols).
“Polyphenols are antioxidants that reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. In this way, they improve the mental mood “, the expert explains. In fact, a study published in January 2022 showed that those who consumed a little dark chocolate with 85% solid cocoa daily maintained a better general mood compared to those who ate chocolate with less solid cocoa. The same seemed to apply to those who do not eat chocolate at all.
The more cocoa solids it contains, the sweeter the dark chocolate. In addition, it contains more caffeine than other types of chocolate.
“Caffeine can worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn). In many people, on the other hand, it has a stimulating effect, causing them e.g. “Nervousness or insomnia,” says Dr. Peart. “Therefore, the products that contain it may not be suitable for everyone.”
Of course, the caffeine content of dark chocolate is much lower than that of coffee. If, for example, one eats 60 grams of a species with 70% solid cocoa, one will take in 50-60 mg of caffeine. One cup of coffee (250 ml) may contain from 100 to 200 mg. Still, it may not be suitable for sensitive individuals.
Another disadvantage of dark chocolate is that it contains moderate amounts of saturated fat. These are the types of fats associated with high cholesterol. However, it is believed that “the cardioprotective benefits of flavanols outweigh its potential risks from saturated fats,” explains Dr. Peart.
But how much dark chocolate can we eat to reap these benefits? 30 to 60 grams a day is more than enough, the expert answers. They correspond to three to six squares of chocolate and provide all their benefits, without the risk of overconsumption.
Do not forget that per 100 grams of dark chocolate provides up to 550 calories. Therefore, you can not eat this amount every day, because you will either reduce other essential foods from your diet, or you will gain weight.