Are Chocolates Healthy For You?

January 22nd, 2016

The debate whether chocolate is healthy rages on with conflicting reports emerging every day. So, let’s conduct an objective assessment.

The bare truth is that chocolate by itself in raw form is healthy while products made using chocolate are usually not.

Chocolates are derived from cocoa beans. To make the chocolates, they are usually separated into cocoa butter (fats) and cocoa solids (everything remaining). Both cocoa solids and cocoa butter are healthy.

  • Cocoa butter: contains a lot of saturated fat that is healthy.
  • Cocoa solids: contains zinc, magnesium and copper and lots of fiber. Also have high content of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are found to have cardio-vascular benefits like lowering blood pressure.
  • Chocolate liquor: Melted chocolate containing cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Does not contain alcohol.
  • Phytic acid: Here is the hitch. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient, found in raw cocoa beans. It sticks to minerals and prevents body to absorb them. But good news is that most phytic acid in cocoa is destroyed when beans are heated and fermented.

So far, all is well with chocolates. But the problem comes when other junk is added to the chocolate; be careful while getting chocolate gifts delivered for a sick person.

  • Sugar: This is enemy number one for your health. Sugar is added in generous quantity to most commercial chocolate bars and its detriments are commonly known.
  • Milk: It may or may not affect your health but it is definitely not good for everyone.
  • Flavouring, preservatives, soy lecithin, emulsifiers, and stabilizers: Some may be harmless but most come as bad news.

A good chocolate product is one which is rich in cocoa solids and cocoa butter but does not contain the above junk elements. Very often this means you have to buy expensive, high quality brands. Real cocoa butter is costly and cheap brands try to substitute and add emulsifiers and additives to compensate for natural cocoa content. For the real thing, be prepared to shell out more cash.

Here is a rundown on forms of chocolate:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: Mainly consists of cocoa solids and lacks tasty and healthy cocoa butter but overall very healthy form used for cooking.
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate: Combines cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Mostly used in chocolate based recipes.
  • Dark chocolate: contains cocoa butter, cocoa solids and a bit of sugar. But sugar content is miniscule in comparison to some popular fruits, so it is not a health issue.
  • Milk chocolate: Has milk, cocoa butters, cocoa solids and high quantity of sugar. Most common brands are unhealthy.
  • White chocolate: Contains milk, sugar and cocoa butter minus cocoa solids. On the unhealthy side! Most of us have access to only cheap white chocolate, loaded with sugar and other junk.

In sum: Like most plant food, cocoa beans provide high nutritive content. It is rich in healthy fats and anti-oxidants. Eating them after roasting and fermenting is a healthy treat. It is a delicious luxury and not a staple in our lives. Nowadays, you can order chocolates online, who will deliver chocolates by post.

 But sugar content in most chocolate candies is worrying, health wise. You can do well by picking a brand that has minimum junk. All said and done, you cannot rule out some junk content in all chocolates. But one way to get around this problem is by using cooking chocolate to make recipes that will satisfy your chocolate fix.