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Is chocolate healthy? Why chocolate is unhealthy?

Almost all of us like it and should do our best not to eat too much of it: chocolate. There are quite a few mixed stories about chocolate and how healthy it actually is. But is chocolate healthy and to what extent? 

In Indonesia, this amount is even higher. Time to take a closer look at the question: Is chocolate healthy?

How is chocolate made?

Most people know that the production of chocolate starts with cocoa. Cocoa trees grow in warm places where there is sufficient rainfall. Many cocoa trees are grown in West Africa today, where the weather conditions are often the most ideal for a cocoa tree. Large fruits that are full of beans grow on these trees. The beans of these fruits are called cocoa beans. These beans are the basis for producing chocolate.

chocolate healthy
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The beans are fermented, dried, roasted, and then completely ground into cocoa mass. This is pressed firmly, creating cocoa butter. The remainder of this pressing is ground into a fine powder: cocoa powder. Sugar and in some cases milk powder are then added and the entire mass is kneaded and heated. Finally, it is poured into molds.

The amounts of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar differ per chocolate type and are relevant to the question of to what extent chocolate is healthy (or not). You can read this later in this blog. In addition, other ingredients can of course be added, as we often see these days. Think of nuts, fruit, salt, caramel, and much more. This of course also affects the nutritional value and how healthy the piece of chocolate is.

cocoa butter

One of the basic ingredients of chocolate is cocoa butter. Simply put, cocoa butter can be seen as the unhealthy part of the cocoa bean. It contains almost only fats and then for a large part the saturated version. Saturated fats are known to have a negative impact on cholesterol levels in our blood. You can count on about 900 kcal per 100 grams of cocoa butter. Are you starting to doubt whether chocolate is healthy?

cocoa powder

The other basic ingredient of chocolate is cocoa powder. Like the cocoa butter, this comes directly from the cocoa bean. Fortunately, it contains much fewer calories than butter and also has quite a few healthy substances. It is packed with antioxidants called flavonols (flavonoids). These antioxidants seem to have a positive effect on our blood vessels. It should be mentioned here that there are still uncertainties about which health benefits (or possible disadvantages) these flavanols would have.

This substance in particular is what makes certain types of chocolate healthy. We must take into account that many flavanols can be lost during the heating of the cocoa. For this reason, raw cocoa (powder) contains a lot more of these antioxidants than the roasted version.

It also contains vitamins A and B and many minerals, such as magnesium, iron, and zinc. Cocoa powder also contains quite a bit of fiber. All of this, of course, contributes to many people saying that chocolate is healthy.

Different types of chocolate

As you have just read, the amount of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar depends on the type of chocolate. We mention the most common types here, together with the ratio of cocoa and cocoa butter.

White chocolate

White chocolate has on average at least 20% cocoa butter. In addition to cocoa butter, this type of chocolate also contains milk powder and sugar. Chocolate gets its dark color from the cocoa powder, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that white chocolate contains no cocoa powder.

The part of a chocolate bar that contains the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants is therefore not present in white chocolate. When it comes to chocolate that is healthy, white chocolate is by far the least healthy type of chocolate.

milk chocolate

Milk chocolate contains milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder. It usually contains a minimum of 25% cocoa butter and 25% cocoa powder. The rest consists of sugar and milk powder. This is already a lot better than white chocolate, but it still can't be seen as healthy. There is still a lot of saturated fat and sugar in the product. If you're looking for healthy chocolate, it's best to avoid milk chocolate.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is the variety known as healthy chocolate. Somehow understandable, since it contains the most cocoa powder. Dark chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa powder. The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa powder. The more cocoa powder, the more minerals, and vitamins. You get it. Cocoa powder also contains many antioxidants (flavonols) and the more cocoa powder there is in chocolate, the more flavanols you consume with it.

However, if you've been paying attention, you should now have some question marks. As you have just read, many of the flavanols are lost during heating. This also just happens with dark chocolate. So even if you eat chocolate that is, for example, 80% pure, even then these antioxidants will no longer be present to a large extent.

Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate and especially white chocolate, but the role of the flavanols in this is considerably smaller than is often thought. How dark or bitter chocolate does not necessarily mean that it also contains more flavanols.

raw chocolate

Raw chocolate is made from cocoa beans that are not roasted. During the process, much fewer flavanols are lost than when the beans are heated. This form of chocolate, therefore, contains much more flavanols and that has a proven positive effect on your heart and blood vessels. We can therefore say: raw chocolate is the healthiest variant!

To experience a positive effect on your blood vessels, you should consume at least 200 milligrams of flavanols daily. To achieve this, you need to eat about 10 grams of extra dark raw chocolate every day. You can also opt for raw cocoa powder. In that case, you need about 2.5 grams to reach the amount of 200 milligrams of flavanols.

Why chocolate is healthy

To decide whether and why chocolate is healthy, we list all the benefits again. So keep in mind that these benefits strongly depend on the type of chocolate you consume. The rule of thumb is, the purer the chocolate, the fewer additives it contains, and the healthier it is.

  • It contains many minerals
  • Chocolate contains vitamins
  • The raw version contains many antioxidants (flavanols)
  • The cocoa powder in chocolate contains a lot of fiber

Why chocolate is unhealthy

Despite the many benefits mentioned above, there are also a number of reasons why chocolate can be unhealthy. Again, this is largely determined by the purity of the chocolate you eat. Below is a summary of all possible unhealthy properties of chocolate.

  • Most chocolate is rich in saturated fats
  • A lot of sugar is regularly added during the production process
  • Because of the above points, chocolate can contain a lot of calories, so eat in moderation

Which chocolate is the healthiest?

There is only one type of chocolate that can officially call itself healthy. Acticoa chocolate pearls are officially considered healthy according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The company behind these chocolate pearls submitted this claim to the European Food Safety Authority, as about 80% of the flavanols in their chocolate pearls remain intact. This proved to be true and was approved in 2014. Since then, this is the only chocolate that can call itself really healthy.

Conclusion: is chocolate healthy?

Whether chocolate is healthy therefore strongly depends on the type of chocolate. Unfortunately, if we have to give a general answer, it will be: no, chocolate is not healthy. This is the case because by far the largest part of the chocolate contains a lot of saturated fats and sugar. The healthiest part of cocoa powder (flavanols) is largely lost during the roasting of cocoa beans. We will therefore not label most chocolate that we see in the supermarket as healthy.

Raw chocolate that is as pure as possible is healthy, as it contains less saturated fats and much more flavanols. However, raw cocoa is much less often on the shelves than standard chocolate bars, so that most of the chocolate that one consumes will not be healthy or less healthy. So do you want to take advantage of all the healthy benefits of cocoa? Then choose raw cocoa powder, raw cocoa nibs, or raw extra dark chocolate. This way you get the most flavanols and you also benefit from the minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

Frequently asked questions about chocolate and health

To conclude, here are a few more frequently asked questions about chocolate and the health benefits that chocolate would have.

Does chocolate help with weight loss?

There are quite a few misconceptions about this. The fact is that chocolate contains a lot of (saturated) fats and also a lot of calories. Most people will immediately make the link, but that does not seem to go well with losing weight. So don't assume that eating chocolate will help you lose weight. In fact, if you eat too much chocolate you will gain weight.

Are you working on losing weight and do you notice that every now and then a small piece of chocolate ensures that you can keep it up better? Then definitely keep doing this! In that case, it indirectly helps with weight loss.

Does chocolate give you energy?

Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine. Both substances provide energy. This is less than, for example, with a cup of coffee. It is, therefore, possible that you get a cheerful feeling after eating a piece of chocolate.

Does chocolate have an effect on the heart and blood vessels?

Raw cocoa powder that contains a lot of flavanols has a proven positive effect on the elasticity of the blood vessels. However, most chocolate in the supermarket contains cocoa powder from roasted beans, which means that a lot of flavanols are lost and the positive effect on the blood vessels is much less. Therefore choose raw cocoa powder, extra dark raw chocolate, or Acticoa chocolate pearls that are proven to contain a lot of flavanols.

We only use qualitative sources, such as scientific (meta) studies, to provide the most accurate and reliable advice possible. Although our articles are factually substantiated, we always recommend that you contact a doctor or specialist in case of complaints.
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