Are your taste buds and brain whirling as you try to choose dark chocolate vs milk chocolate? You’re not alone.
The average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate per year (history.com). It’s definitely my go-to treat since I’ve been eating gluten free and dairy free.
We can find tons of information out there about chocolate, but we’re going to skinny it down now so you can enjoy guiltlessly!
Dark chocolate vs milk chocolate defined
All chocolate begins as cocao beans, which are the fruit of the Theobroma tree. Once harvested, the beans are fermented and dried before going to a factory, where they are processed into chocolate.
Raw cocao (cocoa) powder, however, is not processed the same way. It’s cold-pressed instead of heated.
Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate typically consists of 100% cocoa with no added sugar. Because of its bitter taste, most people don’t eat this by itself, but use it for baking.
Extra dark chocolate, also called “bittersweet” chocolate, contains 70% or more cocoa.
Dark chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa.
The most popular version, milk chocolate, consists of at least 10% cocoa solids and 12% milk solids (condensed milk, cream, dried milk, milk powder, etc.). You’ll usually find lots of sugar and other not-so-good ingredients milk chocolate as well.
White chocolate has zero cocoa, and is not really chocolate at all. It’s made from cocoa butter and milk solids, often with vanilla and sugar, and provides no nutritional value whatsoever.
Another ingredient you’ll often see in chocolate bars is emulsified soy lecithin. Soy Lecithin improves the texture of your food, and is considered safe by the FDA. But remember that most soy products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So choose a chocolate bar with organic soy lecithin or without it at all, especially if you’re sensitive to soy.
Dark chocolate vs milk chocolate compared
When comparing the benefits of dark chocolate vs milk chocolate, dark chocolate wins, without a doubt.
Cocoa provides flavonoids, a type of antioxidant known for many health benefits. Flavonoids help:
- lower blood pressure.
- lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
- lower your risk for blood clots.
- lower your risk for disease and cancer.
- increase your cognitive function and mood.
The “darker” the chocolate, or higher the cocoa content, the more flavonoids the chocolate offers.
See, milk binds with the flavonoids from chocolate, making them unavailable for your body’s absorption. This is why milk chocolate offers less health benefits. And it’s why experts advise not to drink milk when eating dark chocolate!
Plus, most candy makers add ingredients such as sugar and other fillers to the milk chocolate, making it unhealthy all together!
You’ll also get greater amounts of these other nutrients from dark chocolate vs milk chocolate: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium.
The only downside to dark chocolate? Well, the cacao plant absorbs lead naturally occurring in our environment. And because dark chocolate boasts higher cocoa content, it’s more prone to lead contamination. Read more on this here and research/shop accordingly. Some of the brands have hopefully addressed the issue since cited.
When shopping for dark chocolate, choose a brand that uses only 70% or more cocoa, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and minimal vanilla or sugar. As always, organic, fair trade or non-GMO verified is better.
Avoid chocolate with added hydrogenated oils, coconut oil or palm oil.
Of course, eat it in moderation because whether dark chocolate vs milk chocolate, it’s high in calories and does contain caffeine.
Choose your chocolate mindfully and savor it as a treat – let a little square of it melt deliciously in your mouth, late afternoon or right after dinner. Enjoy!
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.