I’m sure you’ve all read many news articles about the benefits of chocolate. The media loves to latch onto any hope that delicious things may be good for us. Sadly, there’s very little reason to believe that Wunderbars are nutritional powerhouses (unless calories and saturated fat are the primary nutrients you’re looking for). However, there are reasons to believe that cocoa powder and solid chocolate (both dark and milk) may have some health benefits.
As with any food, the less it’s processed, the better it is for you. That’s why you’ll find many health-conscious cooks and bakers calling for non-alkalized (fyi: alkalized cocoa powder is also called “Dutch processed”) cocoa powder in recipes. Most commercial chocolate bars are going to be highly processed. Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine just how much processing chocolate has undergone by reading the label. You may want to try using cacao nibs in your baking if you want to avoid the added sugar, milk, and fat of chocolate chips. Cacao nibs are essentially roasted cocoa beans which are ready to be ground up to be made into chocolate.
The benefits of chocolate and cocoa appear to primarily come from the flavenols and antioxidants they contain. The flavenols appear to have heart health benefits through reduction of blood pressure. Antioxidants may reduce oxidative cell damage, slightly slowing the anti-aging process. Chocolate is also a mood booster. Of course, as with any food, you can have too much of a good thing. At the moment, the ideal amount of chocolate to consume is about 1 ounce, several times a week.
One tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains only 12 calories, 0.74 g fat, 1.8 g fibre, and 27 mg magnesium.
One ounce of dark chocolate (70-85% cacao solids) has about 171 calories, 3.1 g fibre, 12.2 g fat, 2.2 g protein, 20.8 mg calcium, 65 mg magnesium, and 204 mg potassium.
One ounce of milk chocolate contains about 153 calories, only 1 g fibre, 2.2 g protein, 8.5 g fat, 54 mg calcium, 106 mg potassium, and 18 mg magnesium.