To eat chocolate or not to eat chocolate, that is the question…Well new research suggests to eat chocolate is the answer! YAY! But remember everything in moderation of course 🙂
The health benefits of cocoa are numerous from lowering blood pressure, to lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and perhaps having a benefit in helping with erectile dysfunction in men. Note that I said these benefits are in cocoa so dark chocolate is what you’re after for the heart healthy benefits and the higher the cocoa content the better. This means that milk chocolate, which has a higher sugar to cocoa ratio, and white chocolate, which is cocoa free, are not part of the answer. Stick to dark chocolate with 75% or more cocoa.
Research points to antioxidants in chocolate called flavanols for the heart healthy properties of chocolate. Flavanols are present in higher amounts in darker chocolate and only in miniscule amounts (12mg/oz) in milk chocolate (compared to 709mg/oz in 100% dark chocolate). As a rule: the more %cocoa solids and the more bitter the taste, the higher the flavanol content in the chocolate.
Using cocoa powder in baking is also a great way to get the benefits of chocolate. Cocoa is the most concentrated version of chocolate as the chocolate flavour comes from the solid particles of the cocoa bean.
There are different versions of cocoa powder including natural unsweetened cocoa powder, dutch processed cocoa powder and instant/sweetened cocoa powder.
Baking usually calls for unsweetened or dutch processed cocoa powder. Be sure to check your recipe for which kind of cocoa powder it calls for. Cocoa powder is naturally acidic and has a more bitter astringent flavour. Dutch processed cocoa powder is alkalized to increase its pH content (making it more basic) producing a milder flavour. Recipes that call for cocoa powder (natural cocoa powder) rely on the acidity of natural cocoa powder to react with baking soda for leavening. If you were to use dutch processed cocoa powder for the same recipe you wouldn’t get the leavening effect. Use Dutch processed cocoa in recipes that use baking powder instead of baking soda. Also note that processing cocoa can reduce flavanols by as much to 60-90% so dutch processed doesn’t have the same antioxidant content as natural cocoa powder.
Instant cocoa powder is sweetned and this is the kind ususally used to make hot chocolate mixes.
Although dark chocolate does contain antioxidants and studies are pointing more towards the, remember that even dark chocolate is full of calories, fat and sugar. So what’s the bottom line? As I always like to tell my clients, everything is ok in moderation. So having a couple of pieces of dark chocolate is not deterimental to your health or weight loss goals (especially if you are replacing pie, cake and ice cream with chocolate) just watch out for how much you eat. I prefer dark chocolate anyways as I find it more satifying than milk chocolate and I’m happier with a smaller amount.