Chocolate, in all of its forms, is one of the most sought after foods in the world. And today, more and more research is indicating that there are dark chocolate health benefits when it is consumed on a regular basis, making this tasty treat even more sought after. But with so many different types of chocolate on the market, it may be hard to determine what healthy chocolate is and what is not considered nutritious to eat.
Created from cacao beans, chocolate is made when these beans are turned into the cocoa solids; cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. The chocolate is then broken into different categories based on the amount of cocoa solids, as well as percentage of sugar and other ingredients it contains. Here is a breakdown of each chocolate category and its health benefits upon consumption.
Unsweetened – 85-100%
This is the purest form of chocolate, containing anywhere from 85-100% cocoa beans. This is the best dark chocolate percentage to consume even though most find it hard to eat since it has such a bitter taste. Unsweetened chocolate is used mostly for baked goods, such as cookies, where it adds an intense chocolate flavor to the dish it’s put in.
Bittersweet – 65-80%
Although this type of chocolate is required by the FDA to only have 35% cocoa beans to be categorized as bittersweet, it usually has a dark chocolate cocoa percentage anywhere from a 65-80%. This type of chocolate is often used for cooking (like the unsweetened), but is considered extremely tolerable to eat alone. The recommended minimum amount of cocoa beans to be found in healthy dark chocolate is 70%, so this is a good form of chocolate to snack on.
Semisweet – 35-60%
Like the bittersweet chocolate, this category only has to have a minimum of 35% cocoa beans to be considered semisweet. The difference between the two categories is the average amount of cocoa beans and sugar in this form of chocolate. Semisweet is usually made of around 40-60% cocoa beans and contains more sugar than bittersweet chocolate, making it less healthy to consume but sweeter (and easier!) to eat.
Milk Chocolate – 10-20%
The most popular type of chocolate to consume, yet the one with the least nutritional benefits, is milk chocolate. This form of chocolate is required by the FDA to have a minimum of 10% cocoa solids and 12% milk solids (condensed milk, cream, dried milk, milk powder, etc.) to be considered milk chocolate. The rest of it is made up of sugar and other ingredients (like fillings) to create a much sweeter taste than other chocolates. That is why truffles, chocolate bars and fudge taste so good!
White Chocolate – 0%
White chocolate is considered another category for this sweet treat, even though it is not actually chocolate. The reason it is called chocolate is because cocoa butter is one if its ingredients, though it contains no other traces of chocolate. To be called white chocolate, it has to have a minimum of 20% cocoa butter and 14% milk solids, with no more of the candy allowed to be made up of 55% sugar. Often times, white chocolate is flavored with vanilla. This candy contains no nutritional value whatsoever.