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Why Is Dark Chocolate Healthier Than Milk Chocolate?

Last updated Dec. 20, 2016

Many people are ecstatic to hear that chocolate has health benefits too. From dark to milk chocolate, the variations are based on the concentration of the original cocoa in the chocolate, on the quality of ingredients, and the additives used.


Many people are ecstatic to hear that chocolate has health benefits too. From dark to milk chocolate, the variations are based on the concentration of the original cocoa in the chocolate, on the quality of ingredients, and the additives used. Dark chocolate has more cocoa than milk chocolate, in between 35-100%. It usually has a more bitter taste than milk chocolate due to lower sugar levels. Individuals who love sweet chocolate usually find dark chocolate unpalatable.

Milk chocolate, on the other hand, is the more ‘candied’ equivalent of dark chocolate and the basis of many popular candy bars and sweet treats, though it contains much less cocoa bean. Milk chocolate has a milkier taste and creamier texture than dark chocolate because it is diluted with milk solids, sugar, and cream.

How is Dark Chocolate Good for You?

New studies have suggested that chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, holds many health benefits. A study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested that individuals who ate dark chocolate had a significant decrease in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic, the high number in the blood pressure, and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). However, this is not a suggestion to go on a dark chocolate binge. This study was conducted on only 11 individuals between the ages of 55-64 years with a mildly high blood pressure.

Another study, published in Nature, suggests that dark chocolate - and not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk - is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants seek out harmful cancer-causing biological waste, called free radicals, and eliminate them. The researchers signed up 12 individuals between the ages of 25-35 years and had them eat different types of chocolate. On different days, each ate one of the following: 100 grams of dark chocolate alone, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate. Their blood antioxidant levels were then measured.

Individuals who ate dark chocolate alone had more total antioxidants in their blood, particularly an antioxidant called epicatechin. Epicatechin is a powerful compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all groups.

Other studies have suggested that dark chocolate is better for weight loss. Even though dark and milk chocolates have the same amount of calories, healthy dark chocolate has fewer carbohydrates and fat than milk chocolate. A high carbohydrate diet will increase insulin secretion, which is a signal for the body to store energy as fat. Dark chocolate has more cocoa and nutrients than milk cocoa. It has more dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. If the health factor is your excuse for eating chocolate, consume it in moderation as you nibble.

Additional Resource:

Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6405

Taubert, D., Roesen, R., Lehmann, C., Jung, N., & Schomig, E. (2007). Effects of low habitual cocoa intake on blood pressure and bioactive nitric oxide: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 298(1), 49-60. doi: 10.1001/jama.298.1.49

Serafini, M., Bugianesi, R., Maiani, G., Valtuena, S., De Santis, S., & Crozier, A. (2003). Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Nature, 424(6952), 1013. doi: 10.1038/4241013a

Probing Question: Which is healthier, dark or milk chocolate? | Penn State University. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://news.psu.edu/story/141242/2008/06/20/research/probing-question-which-healthier-dark-or-milk-chocolate

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Engler, M. B., Engler, M. M., Chen, C. Y., Malloy, M. J., Browne, A., Chiu, E. Y., ... & Mietus-Snyder, M. L. (2004). Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(3), 197-204.

Hermann, F., Spieker, L. E., Ruschitzka, F., Sudano, I., Hermann, M., Binggeli, C., ... & Corti, R. (2006). Dark chocolate improves endothelial and platelet function. Heart, 92(1), 119-120.

Grassi, D., Lippi, C., Necozione, S., Desideri, G., & Ferri, C. (2005). Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 81(3), 611-614.

Mursu, J., Voutilainen, S., Nurmi, T., Rissanen, T. H., Virtanen, J. K., Kaikkonen, J., ... & Salonen, J. T. (2004). Dark chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol concentration and chocolate fatty acids may inhibit lipid peroxidation in healthy humans. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 37(9), 1351-1359.

Steinberg, F. M., Bearden, M. M., & Keen, C. L. (2003). Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: implications for cardiovascular health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103(2), 215-223.

Wan, Y., Vinson, J. A., Etherton, T. D., Proch, J., Lazarus, S. A., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2001). Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 74(5), 596-602.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 20, 2016
Last updated: Dec. 20, 2016