Every year I run into the same dilemma… the inevitable Valentine’s Day and Awards Season collision. After finally recovering from the extra holiday food, here comes Valentine’s Day with it’s enticing chocolates and quickly followed by my favorite time of year, Awards season. See the problem? I’ll never deny myself a nibble (okay, it’s really a whole piece…a small piece though I promise) of great chocolate, but if I’m going to eat it anyway it might as well have some nutritional value so I decided to do some research. Yes chocolate can be high in fat and sugar, but when consumed in moderation, chocolate actually provides some health benefits due to the nature of various ingredients. We all have heard that dark chocolate is the best kind because of the antioxidants but I knew that couldn’t be the whole story. Here’s what I found…
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, fat and sugar. This type of chocolate has either minimal or no milk solids added to its mixture.
Dark chocolate offers more health benefits than other varieties of chocolate as its ingredients aid in:
- Preventing heart disease by using antioxidants to help to neutralize the free radical molecules that can damage the heart
- Rregulating cholesterol levels with catechin and epicatechin, the two main antioxidants found in dark chocolate, are also beneficial for keeping cholesterol levels within the normal range
- Regulating blood sugar levels. The flavanols that are present in dark chocolate keep insulin production stable within the body. This regulates blood sugar levels and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Improving one`s mood. Chemicals such as caffeine, phenylethylamine and theobromine, all of which are found in dark chocolate, help to stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain.
Health Benefits of Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is a mixture of cocoa, fat, sugar and milk solids. Though milk chocolate is considered by health experts to be less nutritious than dark chocolate, it may still benefit the body by:
- Improving dental health. As a source of phosphate and calcium, milk chocolate contains ingredients that help to keep teeth strong and prevent decay.
- Providing needed vitamins and minerals. Milk chocolate contains various elements that are necessary for overall health, including the minerals, magnesium and potassium and the vitamins B1, B2, D and E.
Health Benefits of White Chocolate
White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids; rather, it is formulated with cocoa butter, milk and sugar. The ingredients in white chocolate may benefit one`s health through:
- Being free of caffeine. While milk chocolate and dark chocolate contain small amounts of caffeine, white chocolate is not formulated with this stimulant. This benefits people who are sensitive to caffeine and experience headaches, nervousness and insomnia as a result of its consumption.
Dark chocolate wins the contest with 4 great benefits compared to the 1 benefit of white chocolate. You can add chocolate to your diet in a healthy manner by consuming it in the form of meal replacement shakes, breakfast bars and nutritional supplements. Online health stores such as The Healthcounter pharmacy offer a variety of great tasting foods and drinks that contain chocolate.