Dark chocolate is often described as healthier and more flavorful than white or milk chocolate. It has gained a dedicated following among those who appreciate its character and quality. In the 17th century, Nicolas de Blegny, surgeon to the queen and physician to the king, recognized the health benefits of chocolate. It was even allowed as a drink during the fasting period of Lent. This exotic treat has successfully captivated the taste buds of even the most discerning palates in the Western world. However, there are still many undiscovered advantages of dark chocolate that make it worth indulging in. Here is a carefully selected compilation of its benefits – just what you need if you're looking for an excuse to enjoy another square.
Dark chocolate has the highest cocoa content
Legally, the term "dark chocolate" only applies to chocolates containing at least 35% cocoa. However, in reality, dark chocolates usually contain more cocoa, ranging from 52% for baking chocolates to over 90% for gourmet dark chocolates.
The high percentage of cocoa in dark chocolate offers various benefits, both nutritionally and in terms of taste. These include the presence of polyphenols, which fight against free radicals, the action of cocoa's methylxanthines, which assist in lipid digestion, the presence of anandamide with its relaxing properties at high doses, and a noticeable positive impact on blood pressure in older individuals.
It is worth noting that there are three main varieties of cacao trees used to produce dark chocolate. The criollo variety is the oldest cacao tree and produces fruits that are sweet and bitter. The forastero variety is hardy and mainly grows in Africa, resulting in fruits with acidic notes. The trinitario variety is a cross between the two species, producing fine-flavored fruits while benefiting from the tree's robustness.
Dark chocolate is ideal for baking and confectionery
The Essential Minerals Found in Dark Chocolate
For 100 grams of 70% dark chocolate, the approximate mineral content is as follows:
- 12 mg of iron (RDA* of 11 to 16 mg per day);
- 715 mg of potassium (RDA* of 3500 mg per day for adults);
- 228 mg of magnesium (RDA* around 400 mg per day).
*RDA = recommended dietary allowances
In addition to providing essential minerals to the body, dark chocolate has low levels of sodium and cholesterol, making it compatible with cholesterol-restricted diets and helpful in combating hypertension.
Of course, it is not common to consume a dose of 100 grams of dark chocolate per day. This would also provide a significant amount of fat. However, a reasonable dose of 30 or 40 grams daily contributes sufficiently to a varied diet while promoting the concept of pleasure in meals.
Here are some ideas for balanced and delicious snacks: two squares of dark chocolate with a pear, two squares of dark chocolate with almonds and two prunes, two squares of melted dark chocolate on a pancake or slice of bread, or two squares of grated dark chocolate in yogurt or fruit salad.
Dark chocolate has a long shelf life
Unlike milk chocolate and white chocolate, dark chocolate is less sensitive to heat and can be stored at a temperature between 16 and 18°C. However, it will not melt if left on the kitchen counter unless the room temperature exceeds 28 to 30°C.
Chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers recommend storing chocolates in a wine cellar, which provides ideal temperature and humidity conditions.
Another significant advantage of dark chocolate, especially during an economic crisis, is that it can be consumed several months after the best before date indicated on the package. It may not have the same flavor or quality, but it can still work wonders in a chocolate cake or when melted in a cup of milk.
The digestive benefits of dark chocolate
Consumed in reasonable amounts, dark chocolate does not have a negative effect on digestion. In fact, it can have a positive impact. The high fiber content in cocoa acts as a stimulant for bowel movements. With 15 grams of fiber per 100 grams of 70% dark chocolate, it surpasses artichokes, legumes, and whole wheat bread as one of the richest sources of fiber!
People who tend to be constipated can safely consume dark chocolate as part of a balanced diet. However, those with a fast transit time should ideally limit their consumption and opt for dark chocolate with a lower cocoa content, as it is the cocoa that contains the fiber.
Dark chocolate is also beneficial for the intestinal mucosa due to its rich polyphenol and magnesium content. Polyphenols promote the development of intestinal flora, while magnesium helps with muscular function by promoting intestinal peristalsis and aiding in the movement of food through the intestines.
Whether for health reasons or simply for enjoyment, you now have all the good reasons to continue eating dark chocolate!