Is white chocolate good or bad for you?

There are three main types of chocolate – dark, milk & white – and all three are made from the beans of the cacao tree. I personally prefer the slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate over the other two, and hardly ever eat white chocolate.

However a friend a mine simply adores white chocolate and cannot get enough of it. But does eating white chocolate bring with it any health benefits, and if so, how much should you eat?

How chocolate is made

First the beans of the cacao tree are fermented, which helps develop their flavours and aromas. They are then cleaned, dried and roasted. The outer casing of the beans is discarded, leaving behind cacao ‘nibs’. These nibs are ground down into liquid form, also known as chocolate liquor.

Chocolate liquor contains around 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the natural fat found in cacao beans, and when you press it out, you are left with cocoa solids. These solids can then be ground into a powder; these solids are the ones that provide the majority of chocolate’s health benefits.

Chocolate liquor is processed to give you the three types of chocolate:

Dark chocolate

This type of chocolate is mostly made up of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, and a little bit of sugar. If you have eaten dark chocolate before, you know the packaging comes with percentage labels such as 85% cacao or 70% cacao.

This number tells you how much cocoa solids and cocoa butter the chocolate contains. The rest of the dark chocolate is made up of other ingredients.

Milk chocolate

Milk chocolate contains milk powder, which is added to give it a creamier and milder taste. It also tends to have larger amounts of added sugar than dark chocolate, to make it more palatable.

White chocolate

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar & milk and does not contain any cocoa solids.

Nutritional information

The table below contains nutritional information for 100 g of dark, white and milk chocolate. Nutritional information will vary greatly from brand to brand and higher quality chocolates are usually more nutritious.

Dark White Milk
Calories 546 539 535
Fat 31 g 32 g 30
Cholesterol 8 mg 21 mg 23 mg
Sodium 24 mg 90 mg 79 mg
Carbohydrates 61 g 59 g 59 g
Fiber 17 g 0.2 g 3.4 g
Sugar 48 g 59 g 52 g
Protein 4.9 g 6 g 8 g
Caffeine 43 mg 0 20 mg

So is white chocolate healthy?

Most of the polyphenols, flavanols and catechins that function as antioxidants are found in cocoa solids, and they give chocolate its health benefits. Cacao beans and cocoa powder have been shown to contains more antioxidant activity than blueberries and Acai berries, which is why they are healthy to eat.

For example, this study concluded that substances in cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, an increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and the suppression of oxidized LDL. Oxidized LDL means that LDL has reacted with free radicals and is potentially dangerous to tissues in your body. Another study showed similar results.

Unfortunately, white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, which means that it does not possess many of the health benefits that dark chocolate does. But does it have any health benefits of its own? I tried to find studies that involved white chocolate, but there aren’t many.

This study found that compounds in both dark and white chocolate can improve platelet function and may beneficially affect atherogenesis.

This study found that white but not dark chocolate consumption is associated with exacerbation of acne lesions, so it should be avoided if you suffer from acne vulgaris.

From my research, it seems that white chocolate brings with it very few health benefits and you should eat it sparingly. Compared to dark chocolate, it has very little fiber but does have more sugar & cholesterol. Enjoying it once in a while is perfectly fine, but if you are going to eat chocolate daily, dark chocolate would provide the most benefits to your health.

Like with many products, the quality of chocolate can vary significantly by brand. When choosing a white chocolate, always read labels. Choose a chocolate that has high cocoa butter content, a little sugar, milk and not much else. Some producers use very little cocoa butter and large amounts of other fats instead, making their “white chocolate” far unhealthier. Generally speaking, the more pricy the white chocolate, the better quality it will be.

As you can see from the table above, all chocolate, be it dark, milk or white is high in calories and should be eaten sparingly. Eating a 100 g bar of chocolate everyday will not do your waistline any favours because your body will store the excess calories as fat. A square piece of high quality dark chocolate everyday is fine and you can enjoy a small piece of white chocolate every once in a while.

Conclusion

Out of the three types of chocolate, dark chocolate is the healthiest. White chocolate does not have many health benefits associated with it and should only be eaten occasionally.

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