Roy
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Before we can answer the question of whether dark chocolate is “better” than milk chocolate, we must define “better.”  In this post, I will use four criteria to define the term “better”:  taste, health benefits, mood-enhancing effect, and cost.  With the following information, I believe that you will be able to make an informed decision about which chocolate is “better” for you. 

I will begin by explaining what it is that makes chocolate “dark,” or “milk.”  I will also explain why “white” chocolate is not really chocolate.  Then, I will answer the question, “Is chocolate a vegetable?”  Yes, really, and you may be surprised.  Next, I will reveal the chocolate type preferred in North America; I will compare the health benefits of dark and milk chocolate; and I will discuss the mood enhancing effect of chocolate.  Then, I will briefly discuss cost.  If you are wondering if dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate, read on.

What is Dark Chocolate?

Dark ChocolateDark chocolate (also known as black chocolate, plain chocolate, or bitter chocolate) [1] is dark in color and contains a high percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, usually no milk, and varying amounts of sugar.” [2]   Dark chocolate is usually made with less sugar than other types of chocolate.  But it is primarily the lack of milk that distinguishes dark chocolate from milk chocolate.

The FDA has set minimum requirement of at least 2% cocoa powder, paste or cocoa beans for a product to be considered to contain chocolate [3].  But the FDA states that dark chocolate must contain at least 35percent chocolate liquor (considered a cocoa solid), while milk chocolate only needs to have more than 10 percent.  Cocoa solids include all the ingredients from a cocoa bean, including cocoa powder, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor. [4]

A higher percentage of cocoa solids does not necessarily mean a better-quality chocolate, but it does mean more expensive ingredients were used.  The quality of the chocolate is determined by many additional factors in its overall recipe and processing. [5] 

What is Milk Chocolate?

Milk chocolate is a solid chocolate made with milk (in the form of either milk powder, liquid milk or condensed milk) and cocoa solids.  Near the end of the 17th century, the Swiss engineered the first milk chocolate solid using condensed milk. [6]

Milk ChocolateGovernmental requirements regarding the proportion of ingredients in milk chocolate vary throughout the world, but there are some commonalities.  Generally, at least 10% should be chocolate liquor, at least 12% should be milk solids, and at least 25% should be cocoa solids.  There are exceptions for lower cocoa solid content where it can be traded as ‘family milk chocolate.  Cocoa butter, vanilla, milk fats and lecithin are also often used. [6]

White Chocolate is Not Really Chocolate

Milk and dark chocolates are made from various proportions of the non-fat part of the cocoa bean.  But white chocolate contains no cocoa solids whatsoever.  And as I stated above, the FDA requires a minimum 2 percent cocoa solids for a product to claim to contain chocolate.

White ChocolateWhite chocolate is made from cocoa butter, a pale-yellow edible vegetable fat which has a cocoa aroma and flavor.  Cocoa butter doesn’t taste good on its own, so milk, sugar and sometimes vanilla are added to deliver a sweet and creamy product.

If it’s whiter and less ivory in color, it may also contain supplemental vegetable oils and fats or artificial color additives. [6]

Is Chocolate a Healthy Food?

Healthy vegetablesIn my previous post, The Benefits of Chocolate for Men, Especially Husbands, I stated that what we “know” has a way of changing over time.  I made that not particularly insightful statement before introducing the following recent quote from Barkeater Chocolates:

The FDA in conjunction with the USDA, unveiled the newest Food Plate guidelines in a White House press conference earlier today. The change comes with a tasty addition: chocolate. Citing 401 independent studies on the compounds of chocolate, the newly appointed FDA Commissioner, nominated under President Trump, declared chocolate has met the federal guidelines for being a vegetable. [3]

So now that we have FDA verification that chocolate is healthy, how to we determine which chocolate–dark or milk–is the best. 

Which Chocolate Tastes the Best?

Best tasteA person’s preference for one food over another is subjective.  Some people like Brussel sprouts; some do not.  Some people prefer sweet candy; some dislike all sweets. 

After discovering the taste of dark chocolate many years ago, I developed a strong preference for chocolate with a minimum of 70 percent cocoa content.  But apparently, I am in the minority.  Over 70 percent of the people in North America prefer the sweeter taste of milk chocolate to dark chocolate. [7]

Of course, not all chocolate, dark or milk, is created equally.  Refer to my post, “Are the World’s Finest Chocolates World-Class?”, for a sobering look at this topic.

Maybe my acquired preference for dark chocolate is because of my awareness of the greater health benefits of dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate.

Which Chocolate is Healthier?

Man ExercisingChocolate is made from cocoa. Cocoa is a rich source of health-protective phytochemicals, like the kind you get from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Two tablespoons natural cocoa power offer the same antioxidant power as 3/4 cup blueberries.   Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate is the richest source of phytonutrients. [8]

According to one source, [9] there are at least five reasons why dark chocolate is healthier:

  1. Dark chocolate is better for weight loss. Dark chocolate contains significantly less carbohydrates than milk chocolate.  Milk chocolate usually has about 50 grams of carbs per 100 g compared to 30 grams of carbs per 100 g of dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content.
  2. Dark chocolate may cause less aging. This is because there is far less of something called advanced glycation end-products play in the aging process (AGEs), one of the seven biomarkers of aging, in dark chocolate.
  3. Dark chocolate has more cocoa polyphenols. The health benefits of chocolate are almost entirely due to the polyphenols found in cocoa.  As the cocoa content of chocolate increases, so do its positive effects on health.  A standard milk chocolate will contain about 30 percent cocoa, while premium dark chocolates usually have more than 70 percent.  A process called alkalization reduces polyphenol content of chocolate by 60-90 percent.  Alkalization was invented in the 19th century to get rid of some of the bitterness of cocoa powder and to make it more palatable.  Alkalization is very common among industrial chocolate makers, so there’s a good chance the average high-sugar milk chocolate will contain the less healthy alkalized cocoa. Many dark chocolates seem to use non-alkalized cocoa.
  1. The cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate are more bioavailable. Because of the differences in the macronutrient composition of dark and milk chocolates, even if your dark chocolate happens to be made from alkalized cocoa, you’ll still get more polyphenols because the polyphenols will be more bioavailable.
  2. Dark chocolate is more filling. This is probably because dark chocolate has less sugar and more nutrients.  The lack of nutrients in milk chocolate causes our body to send the satiety signal way too late.  Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa powder, and it’s also higher in many nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. With the lower amount of sugar and high amount of fat, dark chocolate satisfies your cravings more quickly than milk chocolate.

Eating Chocolate Can Improve your Mood

Happy CoupleIt is clear, at least to chocolate lovers, that eating chocolate makes you feel better.  But despite numerous clinical trials, exactly why eating chocolate makes you feel better is not so clear. [10]   Chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, which create the feeling of pleasure in your brain.

Research indicates that this is due, at least in part, to cocoa’s wide range of phytochemicals, including flavanols, methylxanthines, which are stimulants, and salsolinol, a derivative of dopamine which is thought to be the addictive component of chocolate.  

In addition, cocoa has desirable orosensory properties which refers to the palatability or the taste of chocolate.  This may explain individuals’ desire to eat chocolate and its effects on mood. [10] 

The science behind the mood enhancing effect of eating chocolate might be vague, but that does not diminish what we chocolate lovers know to be true:  Eating chocolate makes you feel good.  And it seems logical that the chocolate with a greatest cocoa content would have the greatest mood enhancing properties.

Which Chocolate Costs More

Chocolate CoinsAs I stated earlier, a higher percentage of cocoa solids means that more expensive ingredients were used in the chocolate making.  If nothing else is considered, dark chocolate would be considered costlier.  However, dark chocolate is more filling, which might mean that you would eat less of it.  So, true cost might be difficult to accurately gauge when determining which type of chocolate is better.

Summary

I have discussed what it is that makes chocolate “dark,” or “milk,” or “white.” I then introduced the FDA’s declaration that chocolate meets the federal guidelines for being a vegetable. Next, I revealed that my preference for dark chocolate over milk chocolate is held by the minority of the North American population.  

I then presented five reasons in favor of the health benefits of dark chocolate over milk chocolate.  And finally, I presented the mood enhancing properties of chocolate, pointing out that the higher the cocoa content, the greater the effects.  And I also suggested that the cost difference between dark and milk chocolate may be negligible.

So, these are the takeaways:

  • Most of the population in North America believes that milk chocolate tastes “better.”
  • Dark chocolate has a greater cocoa content, so its health benefits and mood-enhancing effect are “better.”
  • The cost of dark chocolate might be more expensive by weight than milk chocolate, but research suggests that dark chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate. So, the cost difference between dark and milk chocolate may be negligible.

So, is dark chocolate better than milk chocolate?  It seems that if we base the answer to that question on taste alone, milk chocolate gets the most votes.  However, if we base the answer on the health benefits and mood-enhancing effect of dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate is the hands-down winner. 

If we eat chocolate as a rare treat, taste would probably have a greater influence on our choice of a chocolate than the chocolate’s health benefits.  But if we enjoy eating chocolate every day, the greater health benefits of dark chocolate may be the deciding factor.

Maybe the best answer lies somewhere in the middle.  I usually have one small piece of dark chocolate everyday as a supplement to a healthy diet of fruit and “other” vegetables.  If I have a particularly insistent sweet tooth or I have run out of dark chocolate, I may have a small piece of milk chocolate to satisfy the craving, but this is a rare occurrence.  

Remember, all chocolate should be consumed in moderation.  But whichever chocolate you prefer, please consider finding it at the Go to Chocolate Store.

If you found this article informative and interesting, please take a moment to Share us and Like us on your favorite social media site.

References:

  1. “Dark chocolate”. WikipediA, The Free Encyclopedia, 2018
  2. “Dark chocolate”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2018
  3. “FDA Declares Chocolate A Vegetable”. Barkeater Chocolates, 1 April 2017.
  4. “What is dark chocolate?”. Baking Bites. 26 May 2011.
  5. “What does “percent cocao” mean?”. Baking Bites. 7 April 2011.
  6. “White, Milk and Dark Chocolate | What’s the Difference?”. Begian Smaak, 14 May 2014.
  7. “Chocolate Consumption”. The World Atlas of Chocolate.
  8. “Is Chocolate a Health Food?”. Active,
  9. “5 Reasons Why Dark Chocolate is Better Than Milk Chocolate”. The Inhuman Experiment, 15 Oct 2009.
  10. “How does chcolate actually affect your mood?”. Medical News Bulletin, 25 April 2018

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This was an excellent article! Great information, very well presented.

    1. Roy

      Hi Theresa,
      Thank you for the kind words. I hope you stop by often. And if you get the chance, check out our chocolate store.
      Roy

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