How Dark Should Your Dark Chocolate Be?

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“Dark chocolate” encompasses everything from Milky Way Midnights to small-batch candy bars. Here's how to pick the most nutritious form.

Dark chocolate

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown for

You hear all the time that dark chocolate is good for your health. But “dark chocolate” encompasses everything from Milky Way Midnights to Mast Brothers artisanal, small-batch candy bars. It’s certainly not all good for you. So how can you tell dark chocolate duds from Dark Chocolate, Superfood?

It’s all about cacao, baby. Chocolate and cocoa power are made from the seeds or beans of the cacao tree (also called the cocoa tree). Cacao beans are high in theobromine, a compound also found in tea, yerba mate and kola plants that dilates blood vessels and works as a diuretic. They’re also high in flavonoids, a type of plant-derived antioxidant compound beneficial to heart and brain health.

To make chocolate, manufacturers start with these cacao beans and vary the amount based on the type of chocolate they want. Beans are roasted, cracked and de-shelled, and the end pieces are called “cacao nibs.” To these cacao nibs, chocolatiers add cocoa butter (a fat) and sugar, and this is how we get what we know as chocolate.

Keep reading for more on the link between health and cacao content...

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