Chocolate!!!! It’s always a hot news topic, and for good reason: who doesn’t want to hear about a “new study” that suggests they should eat more of it?! It certainly makes you feel better after that grocery store chocolate bar bought at the last minute at the cash register. And good quality chocolate (vs. candy bars) really does have true health benefits:
- Contains polyphenols such as flavonoids that act as antioxidants, buffering free-radical damage in the body’s tissues.
- It has compounds that are anti-inflammatory, and protective against some diseases.
- Chocolate also contains Magnesium, which is important for bones development, muscle relaxation, and stress-hormone reduction
What? Chocolate reduces stress?? No surprise there I guess, right?
Not all chocolate, however, is created equal. There are major differences between the raw form and what you’ll find in candy bars. Here’s the breakdown of chocolate products so you can enjoy ALL of the benefits and flavor together.
You guessed it- the raw, unprocessed form has the highest amounts of all the good stuff. The powder is also quite bitter but using it in recipes or sweetening it on your own is much healthier than buying processed chocolate. Dutch processed cocoa has undergone an alkalization process to make it more smooth, but loses some of the flavonoids in the process.
Processing the cocoa from raw to bar form drops the polyphenol content, but in terms of ready-to-eat chocolate bars, this is the WINNER. The higher percentage, the better, so if you can go for at least a 70% bar. This might taste bitter at first if you’re used to the really sweet stuff, but is your best shot for all the benefits. The depth of flavour and intensity of these bars also helps reduce eating large quantities at one time!
The more ingredients added to cocoa to make different types of chocolate, the less antioxidants that are present. AND milk / dairy products can have an inhibiting effect on antioxidant activity. Also- milk chocolates tend to have a lot more sugar and fat, so keep an eye on the labels.
other chocolate bars
Obviously the commercial stuff at the checkout aisle, and novelty candy created for EVERY holiday, are the WORST choices in terms of chocolates. They are highly processed, sweetened, and have tons of food additives and colours as well.
If you’re going to buy chocolate, make the decision in advance on a healthier bar rather than one of the last minute options. Look for raw chocolate, higher percentage dark chocolate, a natural bar with nuts is great to keep you feeling fuller. And pay attention to the portion sizes- generally the numbers on the packages cover less than a quarter of the bar itself.
Nishta Saxena is a Registered Dietitian, Paediatric and Family Nutritionist, founder of Vibrant Nutrition, and proud Mama of two. In her practice she helps families through all stages of nutrition. Nishta believes that nutrition can transform lives, and it is her goal to change lives through her work!
Click here to contact Nishta about an appointment.