Derived from cocoa beans and providing a flavor desirable to many people, chocolate is a product commonly consumed in the United Sates. Many different types of chocolate products exist (i.e. dark, milk, and white chocolate) and some provide more health benefits than others. If you decide to add chocolate to your daily menu, do so in moderation as part of a well-balanced meal plan. Eating too much chocolate can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Ingredient and Flavor Variations
Flavor variations between dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate are present because of differences in the way each type of chocolate is produced. Dark chocolate is made by combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar, but contains little or no milk. Dark chocolate often provides a semi-sweet, slightly bitter flavor compared with milk and white chocolates. Milk chocolate contains more milk and dairy fat than dark chocolate, giving it a creamier texture, less bitter flavor and lighter brown color. White chocolate, which is white in color, doesn't contain cocoa solids like dark and milk chocolates do, but does have cocoa butter, milk and sugar in it.
White chocolate often contains more calories than dark and milk chocolates. One tablespoon of Hershey's dark chocolate chips contains 70 calories, while the same portion of Hershey's milk chocolate chips provides 70 calories and Hershey's white chocolate chips contain 80 calories per tablespoon. All three of these different types of chocolate provide about 1 gram of protein, 8 to 9 grams of sugar and about 4.5 grams of fat -- much of which is saturated fat. Milk chocolate and white chocolate provide small amounts of calcium, while dark chocolate contains a little bit of dietary iron.
Dark chocolate generally offers more health benefits than milk chocolate or white chocolate. A review published in 2011 in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling found that because cocoa in chocolate (especially dark chocolate) is rich in antioxidants, it provides cardiovascular benefits by reducing inflammation, protecting the skin from oxidative damage and helping to improve cognitive function and mood. It may also reduce the risk for diabetes and increase satiety. Another study published in 2013 in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences found that eating dark chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa is associated with increases in good high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and reductions in waist circumferences in women.
Despite potential benefits of consuming cocoa, dark, milk and white chocolates are all fairly high in calories and added sugar. Therefore, eating too much chocolate often leads to weight gain and could put you at risk for becoming overweight or obese. The American Heart Association, or AHA, suggests that most American women consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, which equates to 25 grams of added sugar daily. The AHA also recommends most U.S. men eat a maximum of 150 calories from added sugar, which equals 38 grams of added sugar per day.
An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com