When a sweet craving strikes, chances are that you, like many other people, reach for a piece of milk chocolate or dark chocolate. While both dominate the sweet and sugary market, we often take some of the facts for granted. For one, milk chocolate has a rich history but a much lower nutritional value compared with dark chocolate. Caffeine content, storage, and cooking uses are also helpful to know. Learn more about all things chocolate and the best ways you can incorporate this sweet treat into a balanced diet.
Defining Chocolate and Understanding Its History
Made from cacao beans, chocolate is originally from Central America, where Theobroma cacao trees thrived in the tropical climate.
Centuries later, Spanish colonizers learned of the prized crop and took it back with them to Europe. The treat eventually made the rounds in Spain, France, and then Britain.
It even gained a reputation for being healthy, thanks to studies of indigenous people who consumed chocolate and were found to have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, notes the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Eventually, now-famous companies called their chocolate goods by the brand names, such as Hershey’s and Mars. Chocolate consumption spiked at the turn of the 20th century.
It’s one of the first treats bought for holidays and special occasions, though chocolate is widely available to satisfy sweet cravings year-round.
How Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Are Made
Cocoa powder is the result of ground cacao beans.
The average milk chocolate sold in the United States has at least 10 percent cocoa content.
The higher the percentage of cocoa, the stronger the taste. Some people find the darkest of chocolate to have a bitter taste, while others appreciate its lower sugar content.
Mass-produced chocolates tend to have other ingredients added during the liquefying phase. Some examples include cocoa butter, soy, and other bulking ingredients that can help drive down costs.
Nutrition Facts for White, Milk, and Dark Chocolate
It also has 17 g of carbohydrates, all of which are from sugar, and 56 milligrams (mg) of calcium. Despite its name, white chocolate isn’t a typical cocoa-derived substance. In fact, it doesn’t contain cocoa at all, so it’s technically not chocolate.
The same serving also has 17 g of carbs. Due to its milk content, milk chocolate has slightly more calcium (54 mg) than dark chocolate (though neither is a significant source of this nutrient), and milk chocolate contains 0.7 mg of iron.
It also has 7 g of sugar and 3 g of fiber. The same serving size has 13 g of carbohydrates.
How Much Caffeine Is in Chocolate Exactly?
While you might normally turn to coffee, tea, or soda for a caffeine fix, know that chocolate also has caffeine. This is all thanks to naturally caffeinated cocoa beans.
A 1.5 oz portion of milk chocolate may have about 9 mg of caffeine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Dark chocolate, due to its higher cocoa bean content, is likely to have more caffeine than its milk or white counterparts. Keep this in mind as you indulge in other caffeinated drinks and foods throughout the day as it can add up quickly. Certain medications, such as aspirin, may also contain added caffeine.