Is dark chocolate really better than milk chocolate?

Between dark and milk, should we really favor one more than another? Getty Images

The square of dark chocolate is reputed to be good for the heart, morale and against stress. But does its milk version really have nothing interesting to show? The point with two nutrition specialists.

If there is a divisive subject at the table – apart from politics – it is that which opposes dark chocolate to its milk version. Some appreciate the bitter complexity of the first while others prefer the smooth, creamy and rather sweet side of the second. If all tastes are in nature, on the health side, which tablet can we dedicate ourselves to, almost with our eyes closed? Two experts help us decide.

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Good cocoa for the arteries…

No need to prolong the suspense any longer. It’s the dark chocolate that wins the match. It owes this victory above all to its richness in cocoa, between 43% and 100% depending on the references, against 25 to 40% in the milk versions. And as confirmed by the nutritionist Hafid Halhol, the higher this content is in the tablet, the more the nutritional quality increases and the more the consumer benefits from his organism.

Starting with an action on the good health of our arteries. Cocoa contains antioxidants such as flavonoids, responsible for lowering bad cholesterol and improving blood circulation, the doctor tells us.

These effects were confirmed in 2008 by an American study on elderly people with hypertension, who observed after 15 days of dark chocolate consumption a significant drop in blood pressure, better dilation of the walls of the blood vessels and a decrease in insulin resistance, reports Sarah Mony, dietitian nutritionist and referenced expert National Health Nutrition Program (PNNS).

…. And the brain

According to the specialist, when it displays a minimum of 75% cocoa on its label, dark chocolate also appears to be a valuable source of trace elements. “There is phosphorus, necessary for bone formation and muscle contraction, zinc and copper, protectors for the immune system or even manganese to fight against the harmful effects of free radicals, list Sarah Mony. Without forgetting, magnesium, known for its regulation of nerve impulses, fatigue and stress.

And its repercussions on mental health do not stop there, since cocoa stimulates the action of two neurotransmitters, adds the nutritionist dietician. Serotonin, also called the “feel good hormone”, and phenylethylamine, a psychostimulant substance that acts on our brain like an antidepressant. This is also the reason why chocolate gives rise to compulsive cravings, says Sarah Mony.

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Two squares no more

Before devouring the entire tablet, in their book fake health news(1), the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, however, invites us not to see chocolate as a miracle ingredient. The authors thus recall that “all these different compounds are present in very small quantities in the bars (…), even in dark chocolate”.

Knowingly, our two health professionals actually encourage moderation and suggest consuming 1 to 2 squares per day only, or 30 to 40 g. Indeed, dark chocolate is not only enriched with cocoa, it is also enriched with cocoa butter, an ingredient rich in saturated fatty acids, and sugars. As surprising as it may seem, dark chocolate is even fattier and higher in calories than the milk version (591 vs 537 kcal/100 g), as revealed by the Ciqual de l’Anses table of nutritional composition of foods.

However, this does not make it any less healthy, underlines doctor Hafid Halhol. “Dark chocolate and its high cocoa content provide fiber to the body, the advantage of which is to limit the absorption of sugar and fat. The milk tablet does not contain it”, informs the doctor.

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Dark chocolate provides fiber to the body, the advantage of which is to limit the absorption of sugar and fat.

Hafid Halhol, nutritionist doctor

Haro on added sugars

Should we ban the square of milk chocolate from our 4 p.m. break? Not necessarily. According to nutritionist Sarah Mony, only people with diabetes, lactose and casein intolerance (milk sugar and protein, editor’s note) should turn away from it. For the others, the specialist considers that the product should not be demonized. It remains “one taste pleasure among others, and its milk contains calcium, essential for bone health”.

But here too, we will avoid swallowing more than two squares. “It should be consumed even more as part of a balanced diet because it contains added sugars, sometimes sweeteners but also natural sugars contained in lactose. But if you consume too much during the day, they are stored in excess in the liver and transformed into triglycerides, which can lead to weight gain. The chocolate fountain might not be such a good idea after all.

(1) fake health newsby Laurianne Geffroy and Léa Surugue, in partnership with Inserm, published by Cherche Midi, 269 pages, 14 euros.

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