Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate — Which Is Healthier?

Is dark chocolate really that much healthier, or is milk chocolate good for you, too? Here's what to know.

Praise hands emoji–worthy news: Chocolate is indeed good for you, and an excuse to eat it isn't all that hard to find. But before you go and start chowing down on chocolate bars, 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, 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. So, let's break it down: Here, everything you've been wondering about chocolate's health benefits, including an answer to the question: Is milk chocolate good for you, and is dark chocolate actually that much better?

Which is Healthier: Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate?

Sure, milk chocolate may taste great, but it's not nearly as good for you as dark chocolate. This is because, compared to dark chocolate, milk chocolate contains less of the original cocoa bean — and 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.

Although creamy milk chocolate does contain cocoa solids, it's often diluted with the addition of milk solids, sugar, and cream, which makes it less nutritious. So, is milk chocolate good for you at all, then? Well, since milk chocolate does contain some cocoa solids, it's not completely void of all nutrition; however, the nutritional quality is minimal in comparison with cocoa-rich dark chocolate.

To sum it all up: 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.

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 phytonutrient) 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. Plus, they can 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 come 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 that the dark chocolate bar you grab at the grocery store check-out is best; look for the percentage of cacao first.

You may also want to consider mindfully incorporating your chocolate consumption (mindful eating FTW!), making sure you aren't removing nutritious options from your regular meal plan. Instead, stick to a serving of three ounces of chocolate per day and look for ways to add it to 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.

The bottom line on dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate? Consuming dark chocolate in moderation is one way to promote a healthy heart because of its flavonoids. That said, other foods can be just as beneficial in protecting your cardiovascular function. Instead of always opting for a serving of chocolate, look for other ways to incorporate flavonoids into your day. Fruits and vegetables are always a good choice — in fact, eating blueberries, in particular, has been linked to a 20 percent lower risk for heart disease. Plus, fruits and vegetables are rich in so many other nutrients (such as fiber, for one) that eating enough on a regular basis will guarantee not only better heart health, but better overall health as well.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles