The Truth About Dark Chocolate, Dutch Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and White Chocolate
While there are many reported health benefits available from consuming the right kinds of cocoa and dark chocolate, please do not take this as a licence to over-indulge! Any good thing can produce negative effects if taken to extremes. So the ancient adage "moderation in all things" applies to consumption of all kinds of chocolate, including even the types of "healthy chocolate".
Cocoa contains fairly high levels of the mineral copper, and TOO MUCH copper can inhibit certain chemical processes in the body and lead to several kinds of health problems. As with red wine, which can be healthy in moderate use, consume cocao and dark chocolate in moderation as a healthy treat, but do not think of it as a regular "health food".
Dark chocolate contains the three elements of cocao liquor or cocoa mass (cocoa cake), cocoa butter, and sugar. Cocoa butter is a fat that is found naturally in cocoa beans. The cocoa butter consists of 34% stearic acid, 34% oleic acid, 25% palmitic acid, and 7% other fatty acids.
A bittersweet dark chocolate bar contains about 70% chocolate liquor; while a semisweet dark chocolate contains about 60%. Note that this chocolate or cocoa "liquor" does NOT refer to alcohol, but is a term used by cocoa processors to describe the viscous liquid made from roasted cacao beans.
Next to raw and unprocessed organic cocoa, organic dark chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate - especially when it contains more of the nutritious cocoa mass and less of the fattening cocoa butter and sugar. The dark chocolate is "healthier" when it is unsweetened or bittersweet dark chocolate. Any sweetened dark chocolate is a little less "healthy" when it is sweetened with refined white sugar (sucrose) instead of raw cane sugar or dehydrated cane juice.
Cocoa powder usually has a slightly bitter and acidic taste. In the 19th century Dutch chocolate makers learned that they could treat the cocoa powder with alkaline salts to reduce the bitter taste - a process now known as the "Dutching process".
Dutch cocoa provides less antioxidants than natural cocoa because the alkali process destroys some of the flavanols (the powerful antioxidants found in cocoa). You can tell a cocoa or chocolate is Dutch Chocolate when the label indicates "Dutch process" or "alkali added" or "European style".
Milk chocolate contains the same ingredients of cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar as dark chocolate, but to these three are added milk solids and milk fats. Milk chocolate will typically contain about 20% milk fat - which does not make milk chocolate a "healthy" chocolate choice.
Aside from adding extra fat, dairy products also inhibit the body's absorption of the powerful antioxidants naturally found in raw cocoa and dark chocolate - which reduces the ORAC value of milk chocolate to about half the ORAC value of dark chocolate or pure cocoa.
Modern milk chocolate bars and candies are usually made from cocoa powder (powdered cocoa mass with some cocoa butter extracted) mixed with some kind of refined sugar, some butter or lard or hydrogenated vegetable oils, some milk products, and various other ingredients.
White chocolate is similar to milk chocolate, but without the cocoa base. Without any real cocoa bean content, "white chocolate" is not really a chocolate at all. Since it does NOT contain real cocoa beans and the many healthy nutrients which are naturally present in the cocoa beans, and since it has a high content of fats from both cocoa butter and milk fat, white chocolate is by far the LEAST healthy choice among the three common types of manufactured chocolate.
White chocolate should be considered a high-sugar and high-fat candy - not a health food. And it does not really deserve the name of "chocolate" at all. It doesn't even taste like cocoa or chocolate! "Cocoa butter candy" would be a more accurate name than "white chocolate". Few of the many health benefits from the nutrients in raw cocoa beans or dark chocolate will be gained from eating white chocolate candy which contains no real cocoa beans.
Healthy Organic Chocolate
While you may have heard that chocolate is "bad for you", it is not the natural raw cocoa that is unhealthy, but the other ingredients in the kinds of manufactured chocolate made from refined sugar combined with various kinds of cheap animal fats like lard, or cheap and unhealthy hydrogenated vegetable oils.
When healthy and high-quality natural ingredients are used, it is possible to make a truly "healthy chocolate" from organically-grown, unprocessed, unroasted, raw cocoa/cacao beans that has no pesticide residue and little loss of the natural nutrients.
Next to organic raw cocoa/cacao beans or cocoa powder, unsweetened and dairy-free dark chocolate is the healthiest chocolate; while the LEAST healthy chocolate is milk chocolate which includes dairy products and milk fats, refined sugar, and possibly hydrogenated oils or lard.
Remember, so-called "white chocolate" is not really a "chocolate" - and certainly not a "healthy chocolate". It is "white" because it does NOT contain any of the dark brown cocoa powder found in dark chocolate and milk chocolate, and provides none of the healthy flavanols. It is not made from the cocoa bean or nib, but from the fatty cocoa butter extracted from the "fruit" part of the cacao plant.
Here is another important fact to remember when choosing a "healthy chocolate"...
Studies indicate that dairy products block the absorption of the many antioxidants found naturally in raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate! Thus milk chocolate and most chocolate candies are not the best choices when you want to eat a truly "healthy chocolate" that supplies a naturally high concentration of antioxidants.
Drinking a chocolate beverage or "hot chocolate" which contains added milk solids, whole milk, or cream is not as "healthy" as a beverage made from pure cocoa powder without any kind of dairy product or added cream. If you like a hot chocolate with milk or cream, substitute rice milk or soy milk if you want to ensure you are getting the most healthy antioxidants into your body.