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Is dark chocolate good for you?

Halley Ayers Molstad
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Halley Ayers Molstad

Dark chocolate has a bittersweet flavor and melt-in-your mouth texture that many people love, but is it good for you? Gundersen registered dietitian Halley Molstad shares some of the research around dark chocolate and why it’s OK for most people to enjoy in moderation.

What is dark chocolate?

To make dark chocolate, cocoa solids are combined with cocoa butter and sugar. The ratio of cocoa to other ingredients varies between products, but dark chocolate tends to contain 50% to 90% cocoa. The greater amount of cocoa in something, the more bitter it tastes. Comparatively, milk chocolate has between 10% to 50% cocoa.

Are there health benefits of dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate contains many nutrients like:

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Fiber

Dark chocolate also is high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants, and it contains flavanols, a specific type of polyphenol. Some studies have found that the flavanols in dark chocolate may help with blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

More recent research monitored many different health markers in people who consumed dark chocolate. The only significant finding for those who consume dark chocolate was lower triglycerides.

So, what does this all mean? Can chocolate lovers rejoice? In moderation, like most things in life. It’s important to remember that many fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide the same (or many more) health benefits.

What are healthy ways to use dark chocolate?

  • Choose a chocolate bar that is 70% cocoa or higher to maximize the amount of flavanols you get from your chocolate.
  • When using cocoa powder, look for 100% cocoa powder that’s not labeled Dutch processed. The Dutch processing causes a loss of flavanols.
  • Add cocoa nibs to oatmeal, granola or trail mix for a bitter chocolate flavor. Cocoa nibs are made from cocoa seeds that have been fermented, dried and roasted. The nibs are usually processed to make chocolate and cocoa powders, but you also can just buy nibs.
  • Use dark chocolate in savory recipes. Make Mole sauce and serve it with chicken or add cocoa powder to your favorite chili recipe for richer, deeper flavors. Cocoa powder also can be mixed with spices such as chili powder, paprika and garlic and then used as a rub for meat or salmon.

Looking to satisfy your (bitter)sweet tooth? Check out some of our favorite recipes featuring dark chocolate:

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