Antioxidant Levels Of Cacao And Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate comes from cacao, the name of the beans of the Theobromas cacao tree which grows in tropical climates around the world. Cacao was once a spicy, astringent drink for Aztec and Mayan rulers. And then the Europeans added sugar to the bitter beans which gave way to the invention of chocolate. Real chocolate, and not the ones adulterated with milk and sugar, has a high percentage of cacao solids and fat and contains a good amount of the antioxidant flavonoids. In short, real healthy chocolate is really good for you.

Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is where dietary caution kicks in. Milk chocolate contains the lowest amount of antioxidants as well aschocolate-1934_640 high amounts of milk sugars and fats. When the antioxidant capabilities of various chocolate products are listed, milk chocolate does not fare well. In 100 grams, cocoa liqueur has an antioxidant capacity of 40. On average, dark chocolate has an antioxidant capacity of 13, which is higher with a greater cacao percentage. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has a modest capacity of 6.7. Unlike dark chocolate, milk chocolate should be considered candy and treated like a calorie-dense sweet.


Cacao beans contain a high percentage of flavanoids called catechins which are very powerful antioxidants. In fact, catechins make up 10% of the weight of dried cocoa powder. Studies have showed that antioxidants decreased in cacao products in direct relationship to how much processing they received. Natural cocoa powder is processed less than other forms of chocolate and has no added sugar. It retains the highest levels of antioxidants. Dutch-processed cocoa has been alkalinized to remove the bitter taste of the cacao bean so it losses significant catechins, lowering although not eliminating its antioxidant benefits.

Flavonoids are plant compounds that give color to fruits, flowers and vegetables. They also protect plants from pathogens. In humans, the ingested flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, support immune functions, and neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and pave the way for the development of serious illnesses like atherosclerosis and cancer. Flavonoids lower blood pressure and the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol by preventing cholesterol from oxidizing and blocking arteries. Cacao contains more flavanoids than most other plants, and its specific flavonoids are rarely found in other plants. Red wine and green tea, two of today’s top sources of antioxidants, have high amounts of flavanoids, although research has shown that cacao has more flavanoids than any other widely consumed food.

Dark Chocolate
Good quality dark chocolate is made with at least 65% cacao and is high in antioxidants. A higher percentage of cacaos mean a more astringent and more beneficial flavonoids. Chocolate liquor, otherwise known as chocolate paste, is the pulverized bean with its fat content, or cocoa butter. The percentage of cacao listed on your candy bar is the percentage of this chocolate liqueur present in the final product. The greater the cacao percentage, the less room there is for milk, sugars and other derivatives. You get a taste closer to the unprocessed bean as the percentage go up. But foregoing some sweetness may be worth it for the value of the preserved antioxidants in the chocolate.

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