Yes, bitter chocolate has compounds that offer health benefits and can be enjoyed guiltily, even daily. But the size of the portion you consume is important, since many bites can, yes, contribute fat, sugar and excess calories, and nullify its health benefits.
Bitter chocolate is rich in cocoa solids, which contain compounds known as flavanols. At high levels, cocoa flavanols have been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve cognition, and possibly reduce the risk of diabetes.
- See more:Benefits of bitter chocolate for good shape and health.
Bitter chocolate has the highest amount of cocoa flavanols; Milk chocolate has less and white chocolate has none.
But although the cocoa flavanols in bitter chocolate make it a healthy treat, it is they who give it its own bitter taste. Manufacturers can process the chocolate to make it more palatable, but thus can remove some of these beneficial compounds.
Processing factors, including fermentation and roasting, deepen the flavor and give chocolate the flavor, can affect flavanol content, explained Matt Hartings, assistant professor of gives
"Roasting generates all kinds of new flavors... and to generate those flavors, you need to destroy molecules in the unroasted seed... and there is always a chance to destroy compounds we want, including flavanols, "Hartings said.
Although flavanol content may vary between brands of bitter chocolate, it is still a healthier choice than milk chocolate, which also tends to have more sugar.
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If you need more reasons to enjoy bitter chocolate, consider this: one third of the fat in cocoa butter is acid stearic acid, a saturated fat that, unlike other saturated fats, appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol in the blood. In addition, cocoa powder contributes minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
So feel free to enjoy a little piece of bitter chocolate after a meal. Just keep a few tips in mind beforehand:
First, always buy chocolate with at least 60% cocoa. Overall, the higher the percentage, the more flavanols, although the exact amount varies from batch to batch and depends on the extent of processing, according to Hartings.
"These higher percentage chocolates have the added benefit of containing less sugar and less fat he said.
Secondly, if possible, choose the natural cocoa on the cacao processed with alkali, a compound that neutralizes the acid. This gives the chocolate a softer flavor but removes the healthy flavanols.
Finally, keep your weight under control, limit the portions to about 28 grams of dark chocolate per day, or about 150 calories.
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