A study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this month that examined the relationship between chocolate intake and health outcomes. This 10 year longitudinal study examined the diet and lifestyle factors of over 33,000 Swedish women. As with any longitudinal study, all women were free of any history of or current cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the research. The study results found that women with the highest chocolate (milk or dark) intake had a 20% reduced risk of having a stroke as compared to study participants who had low or no chocolate intake. One particular antioxidant, flavonoids, has been associated with lowering blood pressure, improving insulin resistance, and reducing dangerous blood clotting.
Milk Chocolate vs. Dark Chocolate:
While in this study both milk and dark chocolate were associated with the stroke risk reduction, the study mentioned that European milk chocolate contains more antioxidant-rich cocoa solids (about 30% cocoa) than American milk chocolate, which is mostly cocoa butter, milk and sugar. Therefore, Americans should use the results of this study as a reinforcement to enjoy flavonoid-rich darker chocolate in moderation.
*hint: the higher the percent of cocoa solids (cocoa liquor, powder or solids), the more antioxidants*
White — contains no flavonoids from cocoa solids, just cocoa butter (fat) and sugar, milk. Most health benefits have been removed.
Milk — contains varying amounts of cocoa solids, with the average milk chocolate bar containing 10-20% cocoa, combined with cocoa butter, milk and sugar.
Dark — Cocoa solid content ranges from 35-100% (100% is completely unsweetened), making the chocolate much more bitter. Sugar, fat and milk content decrease as cocoa content increases. Average dark chocolate bar contains 50-70% cocoa solids.