Chocolates: Are they Good or Bad for Health?

Chocolates

Chocolates are either critiqued to have negative impact on health or are portrayed by the marketers to have health benefits especially dark chocolates. The truth is that the composition of every chocolate is different from the other one, and this along with the amount of chocolate plays a role in determining if it’s healthy for you or not. In this article, we attempt to list out some factors to understand about this in detail.

                                                                                                                                Richa Pande

Chocolate is made from cacao beans also known as cocoa beans. The beans are roasted and pressed to release the fat known as Theobroma oil or cocoa butter. The solids are separated and made into cocoa powder. Both cocoa butter and cocoa powder/ nibs are known to have a range of health benefits. For instance, cocoa butter is rich in vitamin E, polyphenols, and a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Cocoa powder too is rich in polyphenols which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Flavanols in cocoa powder have been proven to improve blood flow to brain tissues, and thus could be helpful prevention of age-related brain degeneration, such as in Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence also suggest that eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity, has cancer protective impacts, and is good for skin health. Consuming chocolate have also been interlinked with release of  endorphins in our body which are help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.

These two cocoa components (both cocoa butter and cocoa nibs/powder) are mixed with several other ingredients and different chocolate formulation are prepared. These are some of the common types available in the market-

  • Dark Chocolates- Dark chocolate is made combining cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. Emulsifier is added to bind all products. Sometimes Vanilla or any other essence is added to impart it a distinct flavour. The percentage of Cocoa in dark chocolates can range from 50-90%. They are generally bittersweet as the percentage of sugar added is very less.
  • Milk Chocolates– Milk chocolates are the most popular variation of chocolates available in the market. They contain only 10-40% cocoa along with sugar and milk. They are much sweeter in taste as compared to dark chocolates as the content of cocoa is less and sugar is high.
  • White Chocolates- They do not contain cocoa powder but have cocoa butter in them. Technically, at least 20% cocoa butter is a must for white chocolates. Milk and milk solids are also an essential ingredient of milk chocolates. Sometimes, Vanilla essence is also added to them to enhance the flavour. It is sweeter than other chocolates, and mostly has high sugar content.
  • Unsweetened chocolates- They have no added sugar in them. If you want to consume chocolate for its benefits, this is probably the best choice. But it is bitter in taste, and it is used majorly for baking purpose.
  • Sugar Free Chocolates- These chocolates are made from cocoa but instead of sugar, Maltitol is added to these chocolates. Maltitol is sugar alcohol which is caloric in nature but has less calories than sugar. It is known to have laxative properties, and thus it must be taken in limited amounts. Its glycaemic index is 35, which is much lower than that of regular table sugar, which is 65.

Nutrition Composition of different type of Chocolates

Per 100 g Calories Total Fats Saturated fats Added Sugar Protein Ingredients

Brand 1

Milk Chocolate

545 Kcal 31.4 19 g 43 g 8.2 g Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Milk Solids, Cocoa Solids, Permitted Emulsifiers (E322, E476). Contains Added Flavours (Artificial Flavouring Substances – Vanilla, Cocoa And Condensed Milk).

Brand 2

Milk Chocolate

530kcal 30.5g 18.5g 56.0g 7.5g Sugar, Milk Solids (22%), Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Solids, Emulsifiers (442, 476). CONTAINS ADDED FLAVOUR (NATURAL, NATURE IDENTICAL AND ARTIFICIAL (ETHYL VANILLIN) FLAVOURING SUBSTANCES). Allergen Information: Contains Milk, manufactured on equipment that also processes products containing tree nuts and wheat.

Brand 1

Dark Chocolate

99 % Cocoa

587 Kcal 42.3 26 g 0g 15.1 Cocoa Solids, Permitted Emulsifiers (E322, E476)

Brand 2 Dark Chocolate

55 % Cocoa

557 Kcal 33.7 g 20g 43g 6g Sugar, Cocoa Solids, Cocoa Butter, Permitted Emulsifiers (E322, E476). Contains Added Flavours (Artificial Flavouring Substances – Cocoa And Vanilla).

Brand 1 Sugar free Chocolate

(55% COCOA)

475 Kcal 33.7 g 20g 0g 6g Maltitol, Cocoa Solids, Cocoa Butter, Permitted Emulsifiers (E322, E476). Contains Added Flavours (Artificial Flavouring Substances – Cocoa And Vanilla).

It is important that most of the negative impacts attributed to chocolate is because of its high sugar content such as acne, diabetes, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, etc. Additionally, chocolates decrease oesophageal sphincter pressure which causes acid reflux and heartburn. It is always recommended to pick a chocolate that has low sugar content, and high amounts of cocoa in it. Always pick chocolates after thoroughly going through the ingredient list and the nutritive values.

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