Chocolate: The facts about your favorite snack
October 13, 2021
By Kirsten Torrey, University of Delaware Dietetic Intern
With Halloween quickly approaching, there will soon be a plethora of everyone’s favorite candy – chocolate! Here are some facts about the different types of chocolate to take into consideration while enjoying Halloween treats.
The main ingredient found in most types of chocolate is cocoa beans. These beans contain a chemical called “flavonoids,” which is an antioxidant proven to be beneficial to the heart. They can help balance cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots, and improve the flow of blood throughout the body. However, not all types of chocolate have equal amounts of flavonoids. Chocolate also contains some caffeine. According to the USDA, dark chocolate contains the most caffeine per ounce (with 12 mg), followed by milk chocolate with 9 mg (in 2 ounces), and white chocolate with zero caffeine. You’ll learn why below. For reference, one cup of coffee has between 102 and 200 mg of caffeine.
Dark chocolate contains the highest level of flavonoids because it undergoes the least amount of processing. Because of the high flavonoid content, dark chocolate provides the greatest amount of health benefits. Try some with high percentages of cocoa content, like 70% or 85%, as these will contain the highest number of flavonoids. If the taste of dark chocolate is too bitter to tolerate, try melting it and drizzling over fruits or nuts for a healthy, tasty snack. The beneficial nutrients found in dark chocolate include Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Calcium, and trace amounts of vitamins.
Milk chocolate also contains cocoa and flavonoids, but in smaller amounts compared to dark chocolate since it is more processed. All milk chocolates are made up of at least 10% cocoa. However, this type also includes high amounts of sugar and fat. The beneficial nutrients found in milk chocolate include Potassium and trace amounts of vitamins.
White chocolate is technically not a type of chocolate. It contains no actual cocoa solids, which is what has the caffeine, and what is required to be classified as a type of chocolate. Since it contains no cocoa solids, that means it also contains no flavonoids and no caffeine. Some white chocolate products contain up to 55% sugar! Nutritionally, there is not much to benefit from since white chocolate consists only of cocoa butter, sugar and fat.
Remember, you can enjoy everything in moderation! Any kind of chocolate can fit into a healthy, balanced diet.