With all of the types of chocolate, how can one navigate which is the best (or healthiest, for that matter)? Semisweet, ruby chocolate, white chocolate, cacao nibs, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, baking chocolate, chocolate bar, it goes on and on. In a quest for the healthiest kind of chocolate, where does one start, and is there really any chocolate that should be considered unhealthy chocolate?
Some of the most important parts of the cacao bean used to make chocolate are responsible for beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols, which protect the body's tissues against oxidative stress and associated pathologies. Flavonoids in chocolate help your body function more efficiently while protecting it against everyday toxins and stressors. Theobromine, which has a similar structure to caffeine, the difference being that instead of a nervous system stimulant like coffee, it dilates the cardiovascular system. This results in the opening up of the blood vessels and a sense of alertness and relaxation at the same time
But once chocolate goes from bean to chocolate bar or it is made into gourmet chocolate truffles, there are differences in the amount of these nutrients that remain in the chocolate and maybe, more importantly, different ratios of cacao to sugar content that impact the healthful benefits of the chocolate. The natural cacao bean that is used in a pure form of chocolate (without the added sugars) has proven to have many added benefits for your mental and physical health.
The big three: Dark, milk, and white chocolate
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the cacao percentage percentage of cacao, the darker the chocolate, and the less room there is for sugar or dairy. If you've wondered about why dark chocolate always seems to have the most filled dance card as far as being included in articles about healthful eating, this is why. Sweetened chocolate can minimize health benefits when sugars are added to the mix. However, dark chocolate contains the most flavonoids and therefore is a much better supplier of beneficial nutrients. As the cacao percentage is lowered to make milk chocolate or ruby chocolate, and milk and sugar are added, there is still some health benefits, but there are 2-4 times fewer flavonoids. White chocolate is not chocolate at all. Really, you say?! It is actually cocoa butter which is the edible fat extracted from the cocoa bean combined with sugar. If you're looking for health benefits, this means that white chocolate may be the wrong place to look, BUT, if you are a chocolate lover in need of a sugar rush, this is your new best friend. While white chocolate might not be the first thing you add to your diet in the hopes of adding nutrient-rich superfoods, all things in moderation offer benefits. Mindful eating of a small amount of white chocolate can be a joyful experience (it’s quite delicious and addresses a sweet tooth,) and after all, your happiness quotient is beneficial to good health!
Other chocolates to consider
What about baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and other types of chocolate that are traditionally used in recipes for cooking and baking? Is there a different determinant for the healthful benefits of these types of chocolate? The short answer is that much of the same is true about these chocolates as others: the less amount of sugar and dairy added to them, the healthier the benefits of consuming them. The biggest variable in these types of chocolate, then, is the other ingredients that are being blended or included in recipes with them. In a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, the amount of butter is probably a bigger culprit than the chocolate in terms of nutrition. Although you may be thinking that making chocolate chip cookies with natural cocoa powder will give you some nutrients, take a look at other ingredients you are including before spreading the news about your "favorite, healthy recipe." Ditch the added sugars and ingredients and stick with ingredients such as natural cocoa if you are looking for a more healthy alternative to your sweet chocolate chip cookies. There are some recipes, however, that highlight the best attributes of chocolate, are rich, delicious and satiating without overindulgence in sugar. Our Mint Chocolate Chip Kefir Smoothie, for example, is decadent and satisfying with a fresh. minty finish.
In the end, a chocolate makers seeks out all types of chocolate as a palette for your palate. While health is increasingly the focus of our chocolatier’s intention, parfum, and texture are still a central consideration. The truth about chocolate being healthy is that it most certainly can be, and the offerings of chocolates aimed at wellness continue to increase as the consumer demands it.
Vosges + Chocolate Wellness
From the beginning of our company over twenty years ago, we have sourced ingredients from around the globe that were superior in quality and taste. As we have evolved, Katrina has used the medium of chocolate to contribute to serving a higher purpose of consciousness and wellness. Many of our most recent offerings have been created with this in mind. Our vegan chocolate, for example, is flavored with natural sugars found in fruit and dairy-free.
Browse and shop our Cacao Wellness collection here.
So, indulge, eat chocolate and be healthy!
As Charles M. Schulz, the author of Peanuts said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”