Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate—Which Is Healthier?
When it comes to the dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, one sweet treat reigns supreme. Read on to find out which variety is the champion, and end the clash of the chocolates once and for all.
Praise hands emoji-worthy news: Chocolate is indeed good for you, an excuse to eat it isn't all that hard to find. (See: 5 Reasons Chocolate Is the Best Treat Ever)
But before you go and start chowing down on chocolate bars though, there is a small catch to all this good-for-you business. Chocolate, whether dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate vs. any type of chocolate, is still no comparison to fruit (whose natural sugars nutritionally trump the sugar in chocolate), and because it tastes oh-so-good, it can be easy to overdo it. (Hey, we've all been there.)
Plus, not all chocolates are created equal. To get the health benefits chocolate provides, you really have to know which chocolate bar offers the most amount of nutrients and the least amount of fat and sugar. (Ever wonder what all that sugar *really* does to your body?)
Which is Healthier: Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate?
Sure, milk chocolate may taste great but it's not nearly as good for as dark chocolate. This is because, compared to dark chocolate, milk chocolate contains less of the original cocoa bean. Although the creamier kind does contain cocoa solids, it's often diluted with the addition of milk solids, sugar, and cream. Since milk chocolate does contain some cocoa solids though, it's not completely void of all nutrition; however, the nutritional quality is minimal in comparison with dark chocolate, which typically has more of the original cocoa present. This is important because the more cocoa that is present, the higher the nutritional quality. Cocoa is a fabulous source of flavonoids, a special class of antioxidants that are the primary reason chocolate can be considered a good-for-you treat.
The more cocoa, the more flavonoids, and the better for you the chocolate becomes. Plus, dark chocolate varieties often have less added sugar and fat which can also improve its overall nutritional value. (Related: Dark Chocolate Could Give You an Edge at the Gym)
The Benefits of Flavonoids
Flavonoids are often found in wine, fruits, vegetables, and, of course, dark chocolate. These flavonoids (which are also a type of phytonutrients.) have been shown to reduce the amount of cell damage often implicated in heart disease. Flavonoids also help improve vascular function and can assist in lowering blood pressure. They can also enhance the power of vitamin C and prevent inflammation throughout the body when eaten in proper amounts. Some studies have also shown that they may be beneficial in keeping blood glucose levels stable and may help normalize cholesterol levels as well.
Of course, the claimed health benefits of flavonoid-rich chocolate comes from mostly short-term, uncontrolled studies, so more research will be needed to confirm how truly beneficial these properties of chocolate are.
How to Pick the Best Chocolate
When it comes to dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, you want to make sure that you are consuming in moderation (as with everything, of course) and choosing dark chocolate varieties that contain at least 65 percent cacao. Don't assume your grocery store check-out dark chocolate bar is best; look for the percentage of cacao first.
You may also want to consider rearranging other areas of your diet to make room for your chocolate consumption (80/20 diet FTW!). Just be smart about it and make sure you aren't removing nutritious options from your regular meal plan so that you can eat more chocolate. Instead, limit yourself to no more than three ounces of chocolate per day and look for ways to incorporate it into other healthy dishes. Fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, and high-fiber cereal are just a few nutritious dishes that would taste even more delish when topped with a sprinkle of chocolate. (Also a good idea? Sipping on some chocolate milk post-workout.)
The bottom line on dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate: Although consuming dark chocolate is one way to promote a healthy heart, other dietary changes can be just as beneficial in protecting your cardiovascular function. Instead of consuming a whole bar or even the full three ounces of chocolate, look for other ways to incorporate flavonoids into your day. Fruits and vegetables are always a good choice. In fact, eating one fruit, in particular, has been linked to 20 percent lower risk for heart disease. Plus, fruits and vegetables are rich in so many other nutrients (like fiber, for one) that eating enough on a regular basis will guarantee not only better heart health, but better overall health as well. (Up Next: The Best and Worst Healthy Candy Options, According to Dietitians)