Is There Really a Big Difference between Dark and Milk Chocolate?

Just in time for Halloween, we’ll explore the differences between dark and milk chocolate and unwrap the pros and cons of each.

Milk and dark chocolate pieces
It’s almost Halloween!

It’s almost Halloween! As a holiday known for tricks and lots of treats, chocolate is often associated with this season. But when it comes to chocolate, is there really a difference between dark and milk? In this article we’ll explore what the difference is and unwrap the pros and cons of each.

How is chocolate made?

It’s hard to imagine a life without the pleasure of chocolate. This delicious delicacy dates back to 450 BC when fermented beverages were made from cacao seeds in Mesoamerica (1). Cacao was originally enjoyed as a foamy chocolate drink with spices. 

To make chocolate as we know it today, cacao beans get fermented, dried, cleaned and then roasted. Then the skell of the cacao bean is removed to produce cacao nibs. These are then ground to produce a mass, or chocolate liquor (2). On their own, the seeds of the cacao tree have a bitter taste which is why many modern day chocolate brands add sugar and other ingredients. 

Is chocolate healthy?

Chocolate, whether it’s dark, milk or white, is high in calories and saturated fat. So too much of it, too often, may contribute to weight gain and negatively affect blood cholesterol and heart health. With that said, the way chocolate is produced can make a difference in the health quality. 

The key is to reduce the processed types (candy bars, chocolate sauces or syrups, chocolate flavorings) and go for chocolate with lower amounts of sugar and ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors or colors. 

Which is healthier: dark or milk chocolate?

So now that you know the general guidelines for picking the best chocolate, let’s take a look at whether there is a big difference between dark and milk chocolate.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate has that rich color because it contains the largest amount of cocoa beans. In order to be classified as dark, it has to contain at least 50% cocoa. This offers more flavonols, a special type of antioxidants, which help our cells stay healthy and protected. 

Dark chocolate is mainly made up of cacao beans and sugar and some may contain a bit of milk. It still contains saturated fat, but since the flavonols are heart-protective, the pros could outweigh the risks when eaten in moderate amounts such as an ounce per day (3). To get the most flavanols, choose 70% dark chocolate or higher, just keep in mind that this means the bitter taste will be stronger too. 

Milk chocolate 

Milk has a creamier texture because it contains cocoa, milk and sugar. It usually contains at least 10% cocoa solids in the US and at least 30% in the EU. Most store bought chocolates use powdered milk and have stabilizers or other ingredients that may not be good for our health. Since most people prefer the taste of milk chocolate, some research is being conducted on the effects of adding flavonols to milk chocolate, making it a healthier option (4). 

The verdict 

Dark chocolate is slightly higher in fats and calories when compared to milk chocolate. But it does win as a healthier option due to having less sugar and more beneficial components such as flavonols, vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron. These are good for the immune system, energy and muscle function (5).

Choco-full recipes

To enjoy the delicious taste of chocolate in a healthy way, try out our chocolate recipes:

Dark Chocolate Bark

Excellent for on the go or to break off a piece after a meal. Packed with ginger and dried cranberries, this reaches sky high antioxidant levels.

Chocolate And Black Bean Smoothie

Don’t knock it until you try it. At first it may seem strange to put beans in a smoothie, but they give a thick and rich texture. Plus they make this smoothie chock full of plant-based protein

Chocolate Covered Strawberries And Pineapple

You can’t go wrong with classic chocolate covered strawberries, nor can you go wrong with adventuring out to some pineapple for a blend of sweet and tart. The best way to get your fruits in for the day. 

Craving more stimulating and satisfying chocolate recipes? Check out Lifesum.

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