Dietitian Answers, Which Chocolates Are Healthy This Valentines Day?
By Ashley Galloway, MS, RD // January 20, 2017
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are delighted to again welcome Ashley Galloway, a clinical dietitian, nutrition expert and native of Indialantic, to SpaceCoastDaily.com.
With Valentines Day right around the corner, her insight on the healthy attributes of the different types of chocolate is timely and indispensable in choosing that perfect gift that is not only delicious, but also loaded with healthy ingredients.
–Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief
THE FRESH BEET–Not all chocolate is created equal. Milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate all have differing levels of healthy and unhealthy ingredients and should be eaten in moderation.
But one chocolate does appear to be superior in terms of health, and that is dark chocolate, which is chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants known as flavonoids.
This type typically contains less sugar and less milk solids — if any — than its counterparts. It also has a higher percentage of cocoa, which is where all those healthy compounds come from; the higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter it tastes but the more flavonoids it contains. Dark chocolate includes varieties containing 75 to 100 percent cocoa solids.
According to an article in the Journal of Nutrition, daily consumption of dark chocolate — along with a healthy diet — supports cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure. But don’t go eating bars upon bars of chocolate just yet; keep your serving sizes to 1 ounce.
One of the most abundant types of chocolate on the shelves in stores today, milk chocolate is one of the sweetest and richest due to its high sugar content and to the addition of, you guessed it, milk. However, studies show that milk proteins inhibit the absorption of cocoa flavonols, reducing their potential cardiovascular benefits.
In terms of health, milk chocolate can be enjoyed every now and then in moderation, but if you’re seeking chocolate with a health boost, look for dark chocolate, which lacks milk products and has much less sugar. Your body will thank you.
Contrary to its name, white chocolate really isn’t chocolate at all. It contains no cocoa solids and is comprised of cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Due to the lack of health-promoting cocoa, white chocolate does not improve cardiovascular health and may actually harm health if eaten in excess.
Its high sugar levels may increase blood glucose levels, and high amounts of cocoa butter may increase cholesterol levels, although studies on the latter appear to be controversial.
Eating a daily 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 75 to 100 may boost cardiovascular health. Additionally, its low sugar content supports healthy blood glucose levels.
Unsweetened cocoa powder also boasts these health benefits and is a great alternative to a plain dark chocolate bar. Although chocolate and milk pair very well together, remember that the milk proteins prevent the absorption of the cocoa flavonols, so consume the two during separate times of the day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Galloway, an Indialantic native who graduated from Holy Trinity Academy, received her Master’s degree in Nutrition from Florida State University and has since worked as a clinical dietitian in a variety of settings from pediatrics to adult kidney transplant to nutrition research. She currently works on the frontline of preventative care as the campus Dietitian for the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Ashley started a food blog called The Fresh Beet, which is a space she uses to share healthy recipes and nutrition information designed to help her readers achieve optimal health.