Pros and Cons of Chocolate: The light and the dark side.

Is Chocolate Healthy?

It depends… Chocolate in its raw form is healthy. Generally, products made with chocolate, are not.

Pros: The Light Side

Chocolate comes from cocoa beans. Cocoa butter and cocoa solids are separated from the beans. Both of these components are healthy. Chocolate liquor is a mix of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. It is produced by grinding the beans and melting them into a liquid.

Cocoa butter is a source of healthy saturated fat.

Cocoa solids contain magnesium, copper, zinc, and fiber. They are high in antioxidants. According to Engler and Engler (2006), the antioxidants in cocoa reduced oxidative stress and exhibited cardiovascular health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and decreased inflammation.

Cons: The Dark Side

Chocolate also contains phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient because it binds minerals and prevents their absorption from the gastrointestinal tract (Schlemmer et al., 2009). All the magnesium, copper, and zinc in chocolate is not necessarily bioavailable. Raw cocoa beans are high in phytic acid. However, when the beans are fermented, the phytic acid level is decreased.

The major problem with chocolate is what we add to it. Sugar is the most common additive, with milk being the second. Other additives include emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, and flavorings.

  • Sugar is hyperpalatable, tending to make individuals over-consume. Sugar, along with other carbohydrates, in excess, may contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and whole-body inflammation.

  • Milk is high in sugar (lactose) and in the protein casein. These, in some individuals, may be hard to digest.

Soy lecithin is a common additive. Soy lecithin reduces the viscosity, replaces expensive ingredients such as cocoa butter, improves the flow properties, and increases the shelf-life of chocolate. The amount of soy lecithin added to chocolate is low, but anyone with the potential for significant allergies, wanting to avoid estrogenic compounds, or who are highly chemical sensitive will want to eliminate it.

Dr. Kerry’s Opinion:

Eat chocolate! It really is the food of the gods!

As with all my food recommendations, choose whole, real, low-toxicity, and low-inflammatory options. Read the labels. Over time, select chocolate with more and more cacao, less sugar and milk, and when possible, free of soy lecithin.