A new study shows that dark chocolate and cocoa powder may be the next “super foods” thanks to their high antioxidant content. The scientists have found that antioxidant content of dark chocolate is higher than so called “super fruits” like acai berry, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate.
It is believed that antioxidants fight the damaging effects of oxidative stress on cells within the body and have many heart-healthy properties. Two groups of antioxidants in particular, polyphenols and flavonols, which are found in various fruits and seeds, have been the focus of much research due to their potentially healthy effects.
Preventive cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said, “These substances help keep the arteries healthy and are protective against cardiovascular disease… When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice!” “The compounds in dark chocolate are just as good as the botanical compounds in fruit. Cacao seeds should be considered a ‘super fruit’ and products derived from cacao seed extracts such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as ‘super foods’,” said lead scientist Debra Miller.
Health properties are more in dark chocolate researchers add. Dark chocolate generally has a higher percentage of cocoa content than milk chocolate. The study was published in Chemistry Central Journal. For the study by the team at Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition compared the total flavonol and polyphenol content as well as antioxidant activity content of cocoa powder and dark chocolate vs. super fruits, including acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate.
- The antioxidant activity of cocoa powder was higher than all other super fruit powders analyzed.
- They also found the total flavonol content of cocoa powder (30.1 milligrams per gram) was higher than all other super fruit powders tested, which averaged less than 10 milligrams per gram.
- Antioxidant content per 40-gram (1.4-ounce) serving of dark chocolate (containing 60%-63% cocoa) and cocoa powder vs. super fruit juices was compared. The fruit juices included acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate and were 100% non-blended juices. The total antioxidant activity of dark chocolate per serving was significantly higher than the super fruit juices except for pomegranate juice. The typical serving size for the fruit juices was one cup.
- The total polyphenol content per serving was highest for dark chocolate at about 1,000 milligrams per serving. This was significantly higher than the fruit juices except pomegranate juice.
- Dark chocolate also had the highest total flavonol content per serving at more than 500 milligrams, followed by cocoa beverage at about 400. All of the super fruit juices had less than 200 milligrams per serving of this type of antioxidant.
The method of preparation of the chocolate is also important. The cocoa powders, cocoa beverages, and dark chocolate used in the study contained natural or non-alkalized cocoa. Alkalization is a process used to mellow the flavor of cocoa, but it also destroys the polyphenolic compounds they say.
They also warn that the number of calories and fat grams per serving of dark chocolate is much higher than that of fruit juices, which means it should be enjoyed in moderation. “Dark chocolate needs to be considered as more of a tropical fruit like avocado which has a high fat content so you need to moderate the calories side of things. But people could create drinks and recipes containing cocoa to get the benefits without the calories,” said Dr. Miller.