If you’re undertaking the 8-Week Program or simply looking for ways to enjoy your favourite snack without the sugar crash – this one’s for you. We’ll be unpacking the nutritional profiles of the most popular chocolate varieties so you can make the best choice for your health.
Humans have enjoyed a long love affair with chocolate – dating back to 460 AD! – but there are a variety of products on the market with diverse health benefits and some scary consequences too. But, fear not – you don’t have to say goodbye to this nostalgic confectionery to live healthily. After all, chocolate in and of itself isn’t inherently unhealthy – one of its ingredients, cocoa solids, are loaded with iron, magnesium, antioxidants and theobromine; which studies show can have a mood-boosting effect. But not all blocks are made the same - here’s your rundown on how to enjoy these benefits without getting overloaded with sugar.
Many a chocolate aficionado will debate you on whether white chocolate is “real” chocolate – this is because it lacks the actual cocoa solids, though it does contain cocoa butter. The solids are derived from the cocoa bean, and they’re the cause for that distinctive chocolatey flavour we associate with milk and dark varieties. Cocoa butter, however, is responsible for the soft, creamy texture of chocolate. We’ll get into why the lack of cocoa solids leaves white chocolate nutritionally deficient, but first, let’s get into the basic makeup of a white chocolate bar:
- Cocoa butter
- Soy lecithin
- Flavouring additives
The ingredients will vary from bar to bar, but the above are the most common things you’ll find in this type of chocolate. Now let’s crack open the good, the bad and the ugly of white choccie.
The good: Though white chocolate is one of the unhealthiest options on the market due to the additives that replace the cocoa solids of dark and milk varieties, there are still a few things to appreciate. For starters, the cocoa butter tends to provide a hefty dose of vitamin E – this is essential for eye health, reproductive health, along with supporting skin, blood and brain function. Cocoa butter also provides a decent amount of healthy fats, which are beneficial for our skin, nails and hair, along with improving digestive health.
The bad: The lack of cocoa solids poses a bit of a nutritional conundrum – those solids are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and without these, white chocolate falls short of its milk and dark counterparts. But that’s only the beginning of the ugly side of white chocolate – it’s also packed with added sugars. So, if you regularly chow down on the white stuff, you’re taking in a lot of fructose – and this is the type of sugar that can’t be further broken down by the body and needs the liver to metabolise it. The results of eating high-sugar foods like white chocolate include obesity, heart disease, liver failure and diabetes. An average bar provides around 17 grams of sugar for every 28 grams of chocolate – that could be as little as 2 or 4 pieces of choccie. Now, if you have a sweet tooth – which, let’s face it, most of us do – and somehow you end up polishing off a block in one go, you could end up taking in more than triple the 6-teaspoon sugar limit. Yikes. Maybe leave the white stuff on the supermarket shelf.
Aussies love their milk chocolate – it consistently ranks as our number one choice and is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s 3 billion-dollar chocolate industry. But how does milk chocolate stand up against its white and dark competitors? Let’s find out.
The good: Like dark and white chocolate, milk chocolate has a decent dose of healthy fats from the cocoa butter. It outperforms white chocolate for nutrition, though, and this is because of those cocoa solids. The iron, potassium and antioxidant benefits will depend on the amount of cocoa solids in your milk chocolate bar, the higher the better.
The bad: Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good with milk chocolate. This stuff is overloaded with sugar to the point that excess and regular consumption of this variety significantly spikes our risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity – and with more Aussies eating this chocolate than ever before, is it any wonder obesity rates are rising too? 32% of Aussie adults are obese, and considering we’ve got nearly 50% of Aussies regularly eating chocolate and a yearly spending of around 195 dollars on the stuff – it seems we might have a bit of a problem. It’s no secret that sugar is addictive – the fructose specifically does a number on our satiety hormones. Studies show it makes us ravenous, instead of leaving us feeling full after eating, it urges us to keep going – ever wondered why you can’t just stop at one piece of chocolate? That’s why these sugary milk chocolate blocks are not ideal for fighting sugar cravings and can lead to adverse effects when we get hooked on the stuff. Take a look at the sugar content of some of the most popular milk chocolate bars:
Cadbury Milk Chocolate: 14 grams of sugar per 25 gram serve
Lindt Excellence Milk Chocolate: 10 grams of sugar per 20 gram serve
Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate: 11.4 grams of sugar per 25 gram serve
Another thing you’ll notice is that a serving size can vastly differ depending on the brand – or even a different product within the same brand. Keep this in mind when reading the nutritional panel on your chocolate block – in the case of the Cadbury bar, just 4 squares is considered a serve. The daily recommended limit of sugar for women is 6 teaspoons (25 grams), while men are advised not to exceed 9 teaspoons (36 grams) – meaning this serve takes up more than half of the limit for women in just 4 pieces.
The good: If you’re undergoing the 8-Week Program, you’ll notice dark chocolate appears frequently – it’s delicious, indulgent and nutritious – without the sugar crashes of milk and white chocolate. But, it’s important to get the right amount of cacao content. If you can tolerate a richer, more bitter taste, we recommend aiming for a content of over 90% cacao solids – remember, the higher the cocoa solids, the lower the sugar content. Research shows that dark chocolate far outperforms its diluted counterparts when it comes to the following health benefits:
- Balanced blood pressure levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Healthier blood vessels
Dark chocolate is also richest in magnesium, copper, calcium, potassium and iron – packing in 19% of the latter in just one 28-gram serve. It’s also rich in antioxidants, which have been found to directly improve insulin resistance, thereby slashing our risk for developing diabetes. It also plays a role in protecting us from inflammation and oxidative damage – including that which is caused by exposure to UV rays. This means dark chocolate can keep our skin and gut healthy. Unlike milk and dark chocolate, the research states that the benefits of consuming dark chocolate by far exceed the risks.
The bad: Not all dark chocolate bars are made alike – some 50% cocoa bars may still be packed with sugar or unhealthy additives that detract from the nutritional benefits. But, if you find a bar with a high cocoa solid content and a short ingredient list, that is an ideal choice. It’s also worth noting that the caffeine content of your chocolate increases along with the cocoa content – so dark chocolate will undoubtably be higher in this nervous-system altering stuff. But, like most things, this is safe in moderation – just don’t be fooled into polishing off a whole block when you see the low sugar content, as you’ll be dosing yourself with excess caffeine, the results of which could cause hyperactivity, anxiety and headaches.
Dark chocolate is the most healthful option to get your cocoa fix without the sugar crash – plus, your body will benefit from the impressive nutritional profile of cocoa solids. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the fewer sugars you’ll find – if you can handle the bitterness, a 100% chocolate block will be sugar-free, rich and a chocolate aficionado's paradise. But, if you have a sweet tooth, ideally aim for a block with less than 3 grams of sugar per serve – 75-95% cocoa solid varieties tend to hit the sweet spot of taste and nutrition.
Pro tip: Make sure your chocolate is not Dutch-processed – this strips a good portion of the nutrients and antioxidants away. It’s a popular processing method as it reduces the bitterness that can come with a darker chocolate, but it may result in a product that has half the number of phytonutrients as a natural-processed bar. So, if you’re keen for those blood pressure-lowering, gut-boosting properties, double check the label.
Keen for more health and nutrition tips? We’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program where we’ll be quitting sugar and turning our health dreams into a reality. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
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