At Easter, usually one of the first things that comes to mind is chocolate. It’s a beautiful day when we spend time with family, we enjoy ourselves and we want others to enjoy themselves, often by giving them chocolate. There are some health benefits associated with consuming chocolate, but only when it is consumed in moderation. Here’s a closer look at this popular treat!
Where does it come from?
Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree that grows in the equatorial zones where the climate is hot and humid. It’s made from the cocoa beans contained in the pods that grow on the tree’s trunk. The pods are first harvested to collect the beans, which must then go through several processing steps before making the chocolate. These include fermentation, drying, roasting, crushing and blending.
What are the differences?
There are three main categories of chocolate: dark, white and milk chocolate (and we can now find white chocolate on the market, a pure delight!).
When choosing a chocolate, you should buy dark chocolate composed of at least 65% cocoa in order to take advantage of all its beneficial effects. The less cocoa it contains, the more sugars or milk (or modified milk ingredients) it contains. Milk chocolate is certainly the most popular of all, with its smooth and sweet taste which is obtained by adding powdered milk or condensed milk. For a chocolate to be designated as milk chocolate, it must contain more than 12% milk solids. White chocolate, on the other hand, is a preparation made from cocoa butter with the addition of sugar and milk. Although it’s recognized as chocolate, it doesn’t contain cocoa powder!
What about the calories in all of this?
Chocolate is dense in calories whether it is white, black, brown or blond! However, these chocolates have different amounts of nutrients. So here are the nutritional differences between the different types of chocolate:
For 100 g of:
550 kcal, 32 g of fat, 5 g of protein, 46 g of sugars, 7.2 g of fiber and 47 mg of caffeine.
535 kcal, 30 g of fat, 8 g of protein, 52 g of sugars, 3.4 g of fiber and 20 mg of caffeine.
540 kcal, 32 g of fat, 6 g of protein, 59 g of sugars, 0.2 g of fiber and 0 mg of caffeine.
Dark chocolate and health
Dark chocolate contains several substances beneficial to health, including flavonoids. This is an antioxidant substance associated with the prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Contrary to what one might think, dark chocolate is as dense in calories and fat as other chocolates. However, it has a higher dietary fibre content and contains less added sugars. Dark chocolate is also a good source of iron, copper, and magnesium. A study showed that consuming dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate makes it possible to feel fuller, decreasing the desire to consume sugary foods and resulting in less calorie consumption later in the day1.
White chocolate, on the other hand, is the worst choice because of its high content of fat and added sugars and the almost complete absence of dietary fibre. White chocolate contains no caffeine due to the absence of cocoa powder.
The presence of milk in milk chocolate and white chocolate is also the reason why they contain a little more protein. On the other hand, they also contain more added sugars than dark chocolate...
Which is your favourite chocolate?
- L B Sørensen et A Astrup, Eating dark and milk chocolate: a randomized crossover study of effects on appetite and energy intake, Nutrition and Diabetes (2011) 1, e21; doi:10.1038/nutd.2011.17