I get a lot of questions about the health benefits of two foods in particular: dark chocolate and red wine!  People are rightfully curious about these foods, there have been many news stories on their beneficial properties.  Today we’ll discuss the nutritional profile of one half of said pair; dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is a very good source of antioxidants; small molecules that can help decrease inflammation.  We’ll talk more about how antioxidants work in tomorrow’s post.

Let’s talk about the difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate.  All chocolate is made by roasting cacao beans; then crushing and grinding them into cocoa solids.  Next a varying amount of milk, sugar, and cocoa butter is added to the mix.  As the percentage of milk increases, the percentage of cocoa solids decreases.  Cocoa solids are the component that contains all the good antioxidants we’re looking for.

So what percentage of cocoa solids is considered “dark?”  The FDA has not defined a certain amount, but in Europe 35% or greater is the standard.  Research shows that in order to get a beneficial amount of antioxidants you need a chocolate that is 68% dark or higher.  The darker it is, the more antioxidants you get!  My preference is Theo’s 85% Dark Chocolate Bar.   

While dark chocolate has a lot of good properties, it is still quite high in calories and saturated fat.  It also does have some amount of added sugar.  All this means it should be savored in moderation, about 1 oz at a time.

Watch those labels!  Because the FDA has no standard for what can be labeled dark, US candy manufacturers will label anything “dark” to sell it.  I purchased some candy a few months ago that claimed to contain dark chocolate.  When I looked at the ingredients, the first one on the list was milk chocolate!  Sneaky candy makers…

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