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Chocolate...It Does a Body Good

First, a bit of background on types and strengths of chocolate:

Dark, milk and white chocolate piecesFrom dark to white
  • Unsweetened chocolate is 100% cacao and has no sugar content.  Think “baking chocolate.”
  • Bittersweet chocolate is the broadest category and has 35-99% cacao and must contain at least 35% unsweetened chocolate and less than 12% milk solids.  It can include products called bittersweet, semisweet, dark, extra dark or extra bittersweet.

Chocolate chips and all manner of sweetened baking chocolates are included in this group.The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the taste.  This explains why chocolates with the least amount of sugar are most often called bittersweet.  Those with higher amounts of sugar are called semisweet.

A bar of dark chocolateDark, or semisweet

  • Milk chocolate contains at least 10% unsweetened chocolate, 12 %milk solids and 3.39% milk fat.
  •  Cocoa powder is what remains after the cocoa butter is extracted from cacao beans and is used for baking as well as for making beverages, both hot and cold.
Milk chocolate lying in cocoa powderMilk chocolate in cocoa powder (with a stray malt ball)

  • White chocolate isn’t true chocolate at all as it contains no chocolate liquor (chocolate in its raw, unsweetened form).   It contains cocoa butter which gives it its characteristically slight chocolaty flavor and is used primarily for eating as well as baking.   Since it doesn’t contain cocoa solids, it doesn’t have the same health benefits that dark chocolate has.  It often has additional flavorings with vanilla being the most common. There have been numerous studies conducted on the benefits of eating a small amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis, because chocolate is rich in:
  • iron
  • copper
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • phosphorus
  • flavanols.

Flavanols are the plant chemicals which are believed to help protect the heart, and studies are indicating that these flavanols help to relax blood vessels and improved blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Flavanols in chocolate have also been associated with reducing the risk of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity in short term studies.

Dark chocolate is considered healthier than milk chocolate because dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate.  This, combined with the fact that dark chocolate contains less sugar and fewer milk solids, is why more and more studies are leaning towards including dark chocolate in a healthy diet.

One study in particular, conducted by Harvard in June of 2017, found that there seems to be a direct link between moderate chocolate consumption and a lower risk for irregular heartbeats.

Granted, no one is suggesting that we all go out and start eating pounds of the fudgy goodness.  But the study, which was performed on 55,500 people, clearly suggested that those who ate 2-6 servings per week had a 20% lower chance of irregular heartbeats, also known as atrial fibrillation, one of the major contributors to stroke, clots and heart failure.

And that’s good enough for this chocolate lover.

Chocolate for heart healthHealth food

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...Chocolate Zucchini Bread...

...Chocolate Cheesecake w/Oreo Crust

... Potomac Chocolate

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