Is dark chocolate REALLY so much better for you?

While with sugar warnings, sales declined at some of the UK's largest milk chocolate brands, more of us have gone the other way – because the sale of some & # 39; high-quality & # 39; dark chocolate brands, which are considered healthier, grew by 14 percent in 2017.

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No wonder regular brands want to taste the promotion. Galaxy recently launched a variety of "Darker Milk" – a mix of milk and dark chocolate, after Cadbury, which introduced its "Darkmilk" version of Dairy Milk last fall. Many studies suggest a link between dark chocolate and better health.

Earlier this year, Portuguese researchers in the Nutrition magazine reported that eating a few squares of 90 percent pure chocolate milk cocoa could lower blood pressure.

The benefits are thought to be related to compounds called cocoa flavanols, in particular one called epicatechin, which helps to keep the vessel walls elastic.

Good for you? The benefits of dark chocolate are thought to be due to compounds called flavanols, especially one called epicatechin, which helps to keep the vascular walls elastic

Good for you? The benefits of dark chocolate are thought to be due to compounds called flavanols, especially one called epicatechin, which helps to keep the vascular walls elastic

Some of the first evidence that chocolate can be good for the heart came from the Kuna Indians in Panama. When researchers compared data from these remote islanders, who consumed much of a bitter cocoa drink, to people who did not live in Panama City in the 1990s, the cocoa drinkers showed better blood pressure and lower rates of diabetes, cancer and stroke.

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However, the flavanol content of cocoa beans is drastically reduced by the processing required to make chocolate that we find tasty – and can vary considerably between products.

& # 39; We know that fresh, unprocessed cocoa beans contain 10 percent flavanols, but processing the beans into chocolate can reduce this to between 0.5 percent and even as low as 0.001 percent & # 39 ;, Dr. Karin Ried explains , associate professor at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne, who produced an overview of the evidence on chocolate and blood pressure for the respected Cochrane Collaboration.

Although you might think that the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavanol content, this is not necessarily the case.

"Research comparing the flavanol content of 41 different commercial brands of dark and milk chocolate has not shown any relationship between the percentage of cocoa and the flavanol content," says Dr. Ried. "When it comes to health, we should not only look at cocoa and flavanols, but at what else is in it."

This includes the amount of sugar.

& # 39; In general, a higher cocoa content is healthier & # 39 ;, says Dr. Ried. & # 39; And with a dark chocolate – I would recommend 75 percent cocoa constituents and more – you also have a higher amount of nutrients such as magnesium (for healthy muscles and nerves), zinc (for a healthy immune system) and iron (for red blood cells). as well as a little fiber.

"Dark chocolate is also usually more satisfying and you get more caffeine and theobromine, which improve mood. A few squares a day is not a bad thing. & # 39;

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Here, Duane Mellor, a dietitian and senior teacher at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, assesses the leading & # 39; dark & ​​# 39; chocolate products. We then tasted them.

MYPROTEIN DARK HIGH PROTEIN CHOCOLATE

This contains whey for extra protein, but in the UK most people still eat enough protein

This contains whey for extra protein, but in the UK most people still eat enough protein

This contains whey for extra protein, but in the UK most people still eat enough protein

70 g, £ 2.99, myprotein.com.Cocoa: 55 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 543; saturated fat, 21 g; protein, 27 g; fiber, 8.7 g; sugar, 21 g; salt, 0.2 g

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EXPERTLY VERDICT: "This contains whey for extra protein, but in the UK most people still eat enough protein. A glass of skimmed milk would be a better, cheaper option if you really wanted a protein hit after training. However, it contains less sugar than some other dark chocolate bars with 55 percent cocoa solids. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Rich with a slightly powdery finish.

NOMO DARK CHOCOLATE BAR

Dark chocolate is already vegan - there should be no milk or eggs by definition

Dark chocolate is already vegan - there should be no milk or eggs by definition

Dark chocolate is already vegan – there should be no milk or eggs by definition

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85 g, £ 1.99, holland and barrett.com. Cocoa: 55 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 552; saturated fat, 21 g; protein, 6.8 g; fiber, not given; sugar, 46 g; salt, 0.02 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "Markets themselves as vegan and free from gluten, eggs and nuts. Dark chocolate should be vegan – there should be no milk or eggs by definition. And makers are not allowed to add gluten to chocolate, apart from added extras, such as waffles or crispy "puffs". Nutritionally it is similar to other dark chocolate – labeling as & # 39; vegan & # 39; does not make it healthier. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Tasty, but with a rather oily texture.

CADBURY DARK MILK

There is nothing special about these "dark milk" versions

There is nothing special about these "dark milk" versions

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There is nothing special about these "dark milk" versions

85 g, £ 1. Cocoa: 40 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 562; saturated fat, 22 g; protein, 5.8 g; fiber, 4.8 g; sugar, 48 g; salt, 0.08 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "There is nothing special about these" dark milk "versions of popular chocolate bars. It may have slightly more cocoa than dairy milk – 40 percent compared to 20 percent in the original – but this is still 48 percent sugar. What you get is a slightly more mature taste. They have also reduced the portion to encourage people to eat smaller portions of chocolate. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Creamy and sweet, with a deeper taste than dairy milk. Moreish.

CHOCOLOGICALLY NO ADDED SUGAR DARK CHOCOLATE

This is essentially a reinvention of diabetic chocolate with added fibers

This is essentially a reinvention of diabetic chocolate with added fibers

This is essentially a reinvention of diabetic chocolate with added fibers

100 g, £ 1.20, tesco.com.Cocoa: 55 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 432; saturated fat, 21.9 g; protein, 5.3 g; fiber, 34.8 g; sugar, 3.2 g; salt, 0.02 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "Marketed as 90 percent less sugar compared to similar chocolates. It uses the sugar substitute erythritol, a sugar alcohol. It is essentially a reinvention of diabetic chocolate with added fiber. It is better for teeth and slightly lower in calories. However, in large quantities, erythritol has a laxative effect. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Slightly crumbly, almost dusty texture. Sweet for a dark chocolate, but there is no satisfactory richness.

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RAW HALO DARK 85 PERCENT

It is made from "raw cocoa powder" but cocoa is just another word for cocoa

It is made from "raw cocoa powder" but cocoa is just another word for cocoa

It is made from "raw cocoa powder" but cocoa is just another word for cocoa

70 g, 3 pounds, waitrose.com. Cocoa: 85 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 587; saturated fat, 31.7 g; protein, 10.8 g; fiber, N / A; sugar, 13.8 g; salt, 0.2 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "Fresh cocoa beans have a higher flavanol content than commercial chocolate, so a" raw "or less processed bar should be more nutritious. However, no research that I know of has proven that this is the case.

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& # 39; Raw & # 39; chocolate also has no fixed definition, so it could still have undergone thorough processing. It is made from & # 39; raw cocoa powder & # 39; but cocoa is simply another word for cocoa and does not necessarily mean additional health benefits. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Very bitter, but surprisingly smooth. Slightly spicy finish.

GALAXY DARK MILK

With 33 percent cocoa solids, it does not contain much cocoa and the sugar is comparable to milk chocolate

With 33 percent cocoa solids, it does not contain much cocoa and the sugar is comparable to milk chocolate

With 33 percent cocoa solids, it does not contain much cocoa and the sugar is comparable to milk chocolate

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110 g, £ 1.50. Cocoa: 33 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 542; saturated fat, 20 g; protein, 6.1 g; fiber, not given; sugar, 54 g; salt, 0.32 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "With 33 percent cocoa solids, it does not contain much cocoa. (For comparison: regular Galaxy milk chocolate is 25 percent solid cocoa). The sugar here is more like milk chocolate – more than half of the bar is sugar. It has 10 grams (more than two teaspoons) more sugar per 100 grams than dark chocolate from the Tesco brand. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: Very creamy and smooth – not unlike the original Galaxy.

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HOTEL CHOCOLAT SUPERMILK

It is one of the lowest chocolate sugar that is not a pure dark chocolate bar - about a quarter of the chocolate is sugar

It is one of the lowest chocolate sugar that is not a pure dark chocolate bar - about a quarter of the chocolate is sugar

It is one of the lowest chocolate sugar that is not a pure dark chocolate bar – about a quarter of the chocolate is sugar

100 g, £ 3.95, hotel chocolate. com. Cocoa: 65 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 568; saturated fat, 26.9 g; protein, 10 g; fiber, N / A; sugar, 24.9 g; salt, not applicable

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "This is called" super milk "because it contains more cocoa and less sugar and milk than normal milk chocolate. It is one of the lowest chocolate sugar that is not a pure dark chocolate bar – about a quarter of the chocolate is sugar (24.9 g per 100 g) as opposed to half or more for others. Sugar masks the bitterness of cocoa and the cream in this chocolate probably does so instead. Slightly higher saturated fat than other bars that mix milk and dark chocolate, but still lower than dark dark chocolate. & # 39;

TASTE TEST: With a creamy bite, this tastes like the best of dark and milk chocolate.

MONTEZUMA ABSOLUTE BLACK DARK CHOCOLATE

This is pure cocoa components, without added sugar or anything else. It is also the highest in naturally occurring fiber!

This is pure cocoa components, without added sugar or anything else. It is also the highest in naturally occurring fiber!

This is pure cocoa components, without added sugar or anything else. It is also the highest in naturally occurring fiber!

100 g, £ 2.59. Cocoa: 100 percent. Per 100 g: calories, 601; saturated fat, 33 g; protein, 12 g; fiber, 17 g; sugar, 0.5 g; salt, 0.02 g

EXPERTLY VERDICT: "This is pure cocoa components, with no added sugars or anything else. It is the highest naturally occurring fiber (Chocologic has more, but part of it is added), which you would expect because cocoa is high in fiber and a fifth of this bar would provide about a tenth of your daily intake. However, many people would have trouble eating this dark and bitter chocolate.

TASTE TEST: Persistent texture but tasty, considering the extreme strength.

IS CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR YOU?

Chocolate is undoubtedly the favorite nutritional virtue of the country, but much research over the years has shown that it can actually be good for us.

With more than 300 chemicals in chocolate, scientists are investigating a whole range of health benefits associated with food.

Researchers at Harvard University studied 8,000 men older than 65 and discovered that those who ate modest amounts of chocolate lived nearly a year longer than those who ate none.

Dr. Neil Martin of the Cognition and Research Center at Middlesex University has exposed people to different scents and measured their brain activity.

The results showed that odor receptors in the nasal passages reacted so strongly to the chemical mix in chocolate that it made people emotionally high.

A 100 g dark chocolate bar gives you 2.4 mg of iron and 90 mg of magnesium, about a third of the recommended daily allowances.

White chocolate, on the other hand, contains no cocoa components, only cocoa butter and contains a relatively large amount of fat. A 100 g white Toblerone bar has no less than 540 calories and 30.7 g of fat.

But despite the sugar content, dentists say that chocolate is less harmful to the teeth than many other sweets, because it is often chewed quickly and not sucked up.

There are also naturally occurring tannins in chocolate that help inhibit the growth of dental plaque.

And there is a substance known in all chocolate, called phenylethamine (PEA), which is naturally produced by the brain and is thought to increase levels of mood-enhancing chemicals, serotonin, and endorphins.

In theory, the more PEA you eat, the more amorous and excited you feel, and that's why chocolate has built a reputation as an aphrodisiac.

A TV series on the food network called Food: Fact of Fiction? looks at how eating chocolate affects the brain.

Researchers discovered that sharing chocolate with a loved one increased oxytocin levels.

This beloved sweet treat also stimulates theobromine and phenylethylamine.

Phenylethylamine stimulates the release of B-endorphine, so that the production of dopamine and noradrenaline is fired.

These chemicals flood your system if you feel loving.

Theobromine is chemically similar to caffeine and, like its chemical cousin, it stimulates the central nervous system and also has mood-enhancing effects.

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