What is dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is also known as “bittersweet” or “semisweet” chocolate. It contains a high percentage (> 60%) of cocoa solids, and little or no added sugar. Dark chocolate has a rich, intense flavor, and is found in chocolate bars, candies and baking chocolate.
What qualities should you look for in dark chocolate?
- > 60% cocoa
- Made from cocoa butter instead of fats such as palm and coconut oils. Although cocoa butter does contain significant amounts of saturated fat in the form of stearic acid, it has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike the saturated fat in both palm and coconut oils.
- Made without the use of ‘hydrogenated‘ or ‘partially hydrogenated‘ oils, which are known to negatively impact cholesterol
- Darker is better: phytochemicals, like flavonoids, contribute to pigment. More flavonoids means darker chocolate and potentially greater health benefits.
- Chocolate is only as good as its ingredients; look for dark chocolate made from organic or fairly traded cocoa beans
Special Considerations: Milk vs. Dark Chocolate:
- Milk binds to antioxidants in chocolate making them unavailable; therefore, milk chocolate is not a good antioxidant source
- To get the benefits of antioxidants, avoid drinking milk with dark chocolate
- White chocolate contains no cocoa solids and therefore is not a good source of antioxidants
1 – Health Risks Of Dark Chocolate :
There are measurable amounts of caffeine in dark chocolate; individuals who are sensitive to caffeine should be aware of this when considering adding dark chocolate to their diet
Chocolate contains oxalates which can lead to an increase in urinary oxalate excretion. Increased urinary oxalate increases the risk of kidney stone formation. As a result, those individuals prone to developing kidney stones should reduce their intake of oxalate from food – including chocolate – as a way to reduce urinary oxalate.
Healthy kidneys clean more than 200 gallons of blood a day. Waste products such as creatinine and urea are removed. Excess potassium and phosphorus are excreted into the urine.
When kidneys becomes scarred because of chronic disease, they are less able to perform these functions. Phosphorus levels begin to creep up. If your serum phosphorus levels exceed 5.5 mg/dL, your nephrologist may recommend that you stay away from chocolate and other high-phosphorus foods. He will let you know how much phosphorus is safe for you to consume.
Phosphorus and Chocolate
Determining the phosphorus content of food is difficult because companies are not legally bound to provide this information. Most patients turn to a phosphorus counter such as the one provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA.
A 100 g serving of chocolate weighs approximately 3.5 oz. This amount of dark chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cacao solids has 308 mg phosphorus. The same amount of white chocolate has 176 mg — which is still prohibitively high. Chocolate mixed with milk is also particularly dangerous because milk is also high in phosphorus.
Dark chocolate, which contains a natural chemical, tyramine, is thought to trigger migraines although the data is inconclusive. Not all individuals who suffer from migraines are sensitive to tyramine. Individuals who suffer from migraines may consider experimenting to determine if dark chocolate is a trigger for them.
2 – Is Chocolate Good for Your Teeth?
According to a 2011 Yahoo Health article written by Mark Burhenne, a Doctor of Dental Surgery, chocolate is one of the most complex “superfoods” due to the presence of over 300 chemical compounds. Perhaps these chemical compounds may explain the numerous health benefits attributed to chocolate, but is it good for your teeth? It seems counter-intuitive, yet many scientific studies over the years indicate that chocolate does provide various dental health benefits.
Here’s how it works: Streptococcus mutans, a prevalent bacteria within the mouth, emits the molecule glucan which secures to teeth and ultimately forms plaque. Cavities eventually begin to materialize when bacteria within the plaque transforms sucrose molecules into acids that breakdown tooth enamel. Cocoa bean husks contain an antibacterial agent that impedes the formulation of glucan, thus the entire process of plaque buildup and tooth decay is counteracted.
In fact, a 2007 article from Fox News reported that research showed a compound in cocoa powder extract hardened enamel and may even be more effective in fighting cavities than the fluoride in toothpaste. To top it all off, Dr. Marc Liechtung, owner of Manhattan Dental Arts and member of the International Academy for Dental and Facial Aesthetics, claims dark chocolate whitens teeth while subduing microbes that generate bad breath.
This doesn’t mean we can stop brushing our teeth and start eating more chocolate. As a matter of fact, most of the the health and dental benefits comes from low-sugar dark chocolate. In a 2000 BBC article, David Beighton of the Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ Dental Institute in London offered some advice: “They certainly have effects but good oral hygiene, rather than eating lots of chocolate, is the way to good healthy teeth.”
3 – Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate :
a- Cocoa may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels because it consists mainly of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but unlike most saturated fatty acids, it does not raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, does not raise cholesterol and may even reduce it.
b- May improve mood and pleasure by boosting serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain
c- Regular intake is associated with better cognitive performance in the elderly
d- Contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium
e- Reduces the risk of blood clots