3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Chocolate Nutrition
When you hear about the benefits of chocolate, it’s almost all dark chocolate nutrition information. But we’ve got news for you: Milk chocolate has nutritional value too! Here are some of the benefits you can gain from eating chocolate, milk chocolate included, along with a few other facts about chocolate nutrition.
Good news chocolate-lovers, you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in a few bites because chocolate (both dark and milk chocolate) has some nutritional value. Most of the benefits come from the cocoa in chocolate, which is made from the cacao bean. So the more cocoa, the better. (Dark chocolate has the most so gets the attention.) Use of “cacao” versus “cocoa” on chocolate is inconsistent and varies by manufacturer, they are often used interchangeably, so one is not necessarily better than another. Read on to take the mystery out of chocolate’s nutritional benefits so you can snack guilt-free on a square after dinner and you don't have to limit yourself to dark chocolate desserts.
1. Milk Chocolate Also Has Health Benefits
We’ve always heard that dark chocolate is the best, but milk chocolate has some good stuff, too. What makes dark chocolate healthier is its high cocoa (or cacao) content. Cocoa has antioxidants called flavonoids that can help decrease inflammation and improve your heart health. Dark chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa has the most benefits, but milk chocolate usually has 10 to 25 percent cocoa, so you’ll still get some flavonoids (but not quite as many).
Tip: Unfortunately, white chocolate is left behind when it comes to nutrition. Because it’s made from cocoa butter mixed with milk and sugar with no cocoa solids from the cacao bean, it’s missing the beneficial flavonoids.
2. You'll Get the Most Perks from Small Portions
As you might expect, overindulging still isn’t good for you. Even though chocolate has antioxidants and nutrients that are good for you—like iron, magnesium, and zinc—there’s not enough to make all the calories and saturated fat of king-size candy bar worth it. Instead, stick to about 1 ounce per day, enough to gain the benefits without the costs.
Chocolate Math: One ounce equals about six Hershey’s Kisses or one Ghiradelli square.
3. Yes, Your Chocolate Cravings Are Real
There’s no solid proof that chocolate is addictive, but it does have quite a few chemicals that can improve your mood (and even simulate the feeling of being in love) that can make you crave it. These chemicals include serotonin, which helps you relax; phenylethylamine, which prompts your brain to release dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter); and anandamide, a bliss molecule that targets the brain’s pleasure receptors.
We doubt it will be a problem, but make sure you don't leave a stockpile of chocolate sitting around for years. Chocolate eventually goes bad, and it’ll have a funky taste or smell if it’s past its prime. Dark chocolate stored in a cool, dark place will keep for up to a year; milk and white chocolate will each last for about six months. That should be plenty of time for you enjoy some of chocolate’s nutritional benefits.