It’s no longer a secret. Dark chocolate is good for you as long as you don’t overindulge. But not all dark chocolate or cocoa powder has equal benefits. Some are more healthful than others. If you cook with cocoa powder or make your own hot chocolate, you may have purchased a container of Dutch processed cocoa powder at the supermarket. Although this type of cocoa powder tastes better, it has considerably fewer health benefits. Here’s why.
What is Dutch Process Cocoa Powder?
Dutch process cocoa powder is unsweetened cocoa powder that’s treated with alkali to remove bitterness and give it a milder flavor. Natural cocoa powder normally has a slightly bitter taste, which the alkalizing process removes. Unfortunately, Dutch processed cocoa powder has a milder flavor but fewer health benefits than natural, unprocessed cocoa powder.
The Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder: Why You Should Avoid Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
The health benefits of cocoa powder come from the antioxidant flavanols it contains. These flavanols boost levels of nitric oxide in the lining of blood vessels, which helps them function better. This not only lowers blood pressure but reduces the risk of heart disease as well. This explains the heart-healthy benefits of dark chocolate and unprocessed cocoa powder.
When cocoa powder undergoes Dutch processing with alkali, it destroys some of these heart-healthy flavanols and reduces the health benefits that make hot chocolate such a healthy drink to sip on a cold winter day.
The Bottom Line?
To get maximal health benefits from cocoa powder, look for natural, unsweetened cocoa powder – and avoid cocoa that has been processed or treated with alkali. The best place to find natural cocoa powder is at a natural food market or health food store. Unsweetened cocoa powder is low in calories, and one of the best ways to get the health benefits of chocolate. Sweeten it by using a natural sweetener like Stevia instead of sugar to keep it lower in calories and preserve its natural healthfulness.
Sprinkle some natural, unsweetened cocoa powder into a container of yogurt to create instant chocolate yogurt – or add it to a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Use a blender to make chocolate milkshakes for a special treat. It’s a healthy way to indulge.
One word of warning, cow’s milk interferes with the absorption of the flavanols in cocoa powder, so make your milkshakes and hot cocoa using a non-dairy milk such as soy or almond milk – then enjoy!
Medical News Today. “A Comprehensive Look at Cocoa Handling and Flavanol Antioxidants”
WebMd. “Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate”