I always enjoy a little amount of dark chocolate, but did you know that it has lots of health benefits but only if you eat the right type.
What do I mean by the right type?
Do you know the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
Here I want to explain to you the difference so that you can choose what to buy based on your own individual needs and so that you know how dark chocolate is good for your health.
An example for me is that I use cacao nibs quite a bit when I make protein bars or healthy paleo cookies. I also only bake for a short period to keep all the goodness inside.
How is dark chocolate good for your health?
Let me share my top tips with you.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
All chocolate starts as cacao.
Raw Cacao are whole beans that sit in pods which grow in Theobroma Trees. There are only small areas in the world where these trees can grow.
Here are the top 10 with their percentage of Cacao grown.
Cote D’Ivoire (39%)
Cacao Trees only grow close to the Equator as you can see from the areas above. They need plenty of rainfall and temperatures between 20 to 32 degrees Celsius.
The process of farming Cacao is still unchanged in the last 100 years. The dwelling of farming is still family run in an area of around only 10 acres of land.
How Do You Make Dark Chocolate?
The beans with some clinging pulp to them are put into bins and covered for several days to allow microbes that feed on the pulp to ferment the beans.
The fermented beans are then dried for several days and it is at this point that they can be sold to chocolate manufacturers.
This process starts to develop the chocolate flavour and sweetness but does not apply to any raw products.
The beans here are crushed and separated from their outer hulls and this results in the cacao nibs.
The next stage is the grinding of the cacao nibs producing a liquor which allows it to become ready to be made into chocolate products.
The liquor is roughly half fat in the form of cacao butter and is pressed out to make cocoa powder.
To create chocolate the liquor is mixed with other ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, cocoa butter, and milk.
What are The Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao?
Made from Cold Pressing the Whole Beans, which keeps all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes unharmed.
Loaded with Vitamins
Aids Weight Loss
Iron – Good for vegetarians and vegans
Brain food due to the levels of tryptophan (creates serotonin)
Has an oxygen, radical absorbance capacity (orac) score of 95,500 per 100g which makes it one of the best sources of antioxidants which is helpful in preventing and repairing free radical damage. These antioxidants help to protect your heart and prevent diseases.
Cacao is also a known source of magnesium which is especially important for our heart health. Magnesium is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions including the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, muscular contractions and relaxation, cardiac health, and bone building. Magnesium also improves blood and is a key role in the metabolism of ATP which is critical for aerobic and anaerobic functions.
Raw Cacao is also food to consider in the fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s as it improves blood flow to all organs of the body.
What is Cocoa?
Usually in powder form and is heated and processed at high temperatures. This is the start of the process which we will see on the shop floors in a commercial perspective commonly known as Chocolate.
Unfortunately, it is this process that changes the molecular structure drastically of the cacao bean reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.
Loss of Nutrients
Lower levels of Cacao
Usually mixed with extra sugar and milk
Loaded with inferior flavorings and oils
No super food listing
How Is Dark Chocolate Good For Our Health?
Research shows that dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from Raw Cacao. If you are thinking of making a shake, then you should use a nut milk or coconut milk to reap all the nutritional benefits.
Unsweetened Cacao Nibs are much healthier for you to use instead of chocolate chips.
Heating Raw Cacao Powder will lose some of its antioxidant properties. Try putting into smoothies as an alternative.
Try using Cacao Nibs raw in trail mixes etc to help keep all the goodness intact.
Dark chocolate with at least 70% of cacao is still a good source of antioxidants and minerals.
Ensure you eat chocolate in moderation due to its calorie content.
Nutritional Comparison of Unsweetened Cacao Nibs versus 70% Dark Chocolate
Unsweetened Cacao Nibs 28 grams
Fat 11 grams
Saturated Fat 2.5 grams
Protein 9 grams
Carbohydrates 6 grams
Added Sugars 0 grams
Fibre 3 grams
Iron 6% Recommended Daily Allowance
70% Dark Chocolate 28 grams
Fat 13 grams
Saturated Fat 8 grams
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrates 14 grams
Added Sugars 9 grams
Fibre 3 grams
Iron 13% Recommended Daily Allowance
Dark chocolate is the closest that you will get to eating for all the health benefits of raw chocolate. Anything less than 70% of dark chocolate will lose the health benefits.
The Harmful Effects Of Eating Chocolate
Weight Gain High Calorie Content
Heart Disease Saturated fat lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure
Diabetes Refined carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels
Tooth Decay Added sugar is bad for our teeth
Reflux Causes Esophageal sphincter to relax and cause heart burn
Caffeine Effects Over stimulation of the central nervous system
Link with Acne Due to high dairy content and carbohydrates
The higher the cacao content in the chocolate the better the health benefits are for you. Equally, the higher the cacao content is the less harmful are the health risks which occur with the added ingredients especially in the more commercial type of chocolate.
Hopefully, you can see the huge differences between enjoying dark chocolate with the highest cacao levels possible to keep all the health benefits. Obviously, this is associated with taste and I know that for myself eating dark chocolate will stop me from binge eating as I could quite easily do with milk chocolate for instance.
Sugar for me is hugely addictive which is why making your own protein bars or cookies enable you to control that sweetness which is better for your health and your weight.
There are other levels of better chocolate for you that I have not gone into which is mainly to do with the way the commercial manufacturers purchase their cacao compared to fine chocolatiers.
I suppose the reason why you see that fine chocolatier manufacturers sell their chocolates for more money stems right from where they pick their products from. Usually they will buy a better-quality bean and the whole process of fermentation through to final product has a lot more care and less sugar, milk and other additives.
A chocolate company such as Harper Macaw are one of my favorites and you can find out more about them here https://harpermacaw.com/pages/our-story.
My suggestion therefore is to look at your labels to ensure that you are buying a good quality chocolate. In essence this will mean that you will be paying a lot more for your bar but it will taste better and have greater health benefits and you will not be eating as much so will be less harmful.
Savor the flavour!
Let me know what you think or if you have any further questions please comment below.
I love chocolate and I can say that having worked at a high-end chocolate store, the process is long and drawn out and depending on on the precent, you are absolutely right about the benefits decreasing the more you dilute the cacao bean!
Thank you for spreading the news that NOT ALL CHOCOLATE IS HEALTHY!! LOL
Thank you so much for your comments Brendaliz,
It is good to hear from you having been in the Chocolate business yourself.
I enjoy chocolate like any other person but I am careful what type.
Thank you for sharing
First of all I need to say, I LOVE CHOCOLATE lol I love the open and clean space and you put just the right amount of pictures. I also like the link you put as supporting evidence to back up what you were writing.
I like that you put where they are located and even the beginning process of what happens before it is given to individual company. I don’t have anything to critize because I do not see anything I need to expand on!
Great topic and article from me!
Keep Being AMAZING
Thank you so much. I am so pleased that I came across how I wanted. I think it is important that people understand the care and the livelihood behind Chocolate which is why choice is important as good chocolate not only taste better but will also have lots of health benefits.
Wow, it is certainly a long process before the cacao beans become edible chocolate. I wonder how ancient cultures in the past figured this whole process out, since cacao was consumed in the Aztec Empire. I absolutely love chocolate and could eat it every day! When I have chocolate bars, I practically eat some every day. I did not know though, that cocoa has much less nutritional value than cocao. That is something to remember next time I go shopping. I will eat more cacao nibs from now on.
So, are all dark chocolate bars made from cacoa or is it best to verify that in the ingredients list?
Hello Christine, thank you so much for your comments about Chocolate. In answer to your question it is really important to check the ingredients. In my opinion due to the time it takes to create chocolate as we know it buying good quality is well worth it as you can really savor the flavour and it is not fully of rubbish chocolate that leaves you wanting more.
This has been a super nice post. I love dark chocolate but up to this point every time I ate a chocolate bar I’d regret it for a week, LOL. It’s good to know that the right dark chocolate can in fact aid us with weight loss and that it also is a good antioxidant. Your post has made me happy, thank you!
Pleased to help Ann,
Yes dark chocolate in a high grade form tastes really good and satisfying. The lack of additives will make it so much better for you to get some good nutrients too.
This is something I was looking for. Have enjoyed chocolate and continue to do so but still am unaware of the same. I for sure did not know the difference between cacao and cocoa. Baking for a short period is a great tip for newbies like me.
What a pity that cacao grown only close to equator since I am far away from there.
There are so many health benefits of raw cacao? Definitely would like to try the raw ones. For the time being, enjoy chocolate immensely. Your article does make it clear why Mom says not to eat too much chocolate but raw cacao will surely meet her approval.
Thanks for this great post.
Thank you Rohit,
I am pleased to help. If you look out for good Dark Chocolate you will be surprised at how lovely the taste is plus you will not need that much to feel satisfied.
Thanks for this article Imelda. I have recommended dark chocolate in one of my articles (https://thenaturalpainremedy.com/pain-management-of-chronic-pain/). Now I am going to go back and link this article to mine.
I too love chocolate, but have been eating the milk chocolate most of my life. Now I get my “fix” from the dark. But I am not going to check the percentage in the chocolate. I don’t do much baking as I limit my grains.
I am glad to know that eating dark chocolate is healthy. So much of what I want to eat is not healthy! But I am slowly making changes.
Thank you so much for this great comment and I will read your article too and link mine to yours.
Once you start eating dark chocolate nothing else will do!
Thank you again