Friday, June 29, 2012

Cocoa Powder vs Cacao vs Dark Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate - Which is Healthier - A Comparison of Antioxidant Nutritional Values




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Which is healthier milk chocolatedark chocolate, or raw cocoa powder, also known as cacao powder. Health conscious people are probably aware of the benefits that are touted regarding chocolate which comes from their presence of antioxidants. What people don't know is that the more processed a chocolate is, the more those antioxidants get diluted by added fats and sugars. After all, chocolate is just a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter (fat), and cocoa solids (cocoa powder).
The benefit of these antioxidants are that they bind to free radicals and may reduce oxidation that causes aging and other bad things in our bodies. The USDA tested a list of common foods and assigned each an ORAC value. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and quantifies how much of these potent antioxidants are present in various foods. The higher the number, the more antioxidants present.

The following are the respective ORAC values for:


Milk Chocolate: 1,263
Dark Chocolate: 5,903
Raw Cocoa (Cacao): 80,933

A few other ORAC values for comparison:

Cinnamon: 131,420
Chia Seeds: 7,000
Blueberries: 4,669
Strawberries: 4,302
Spinach: 1,513
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts (Strawberry flavor): 150

In reality I wouldn't get too hung up on which is healthier, but raw cocoa certainly has a higher ORAC value than milk chocolate, dark chocolate and other "Superfoods" like blueberries and spinach. Raw cocoa is an excellent way to get all the benefits of chocolate without all the added fat and sugar.

You can find raw cocoa in the baking section of your local supermarket, Wal-Mart, and Target, or you can order on Amazon immediately.

Amazon Shopping Links:
Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark (my favorite, add to oats for a rich dark color and intense taste)
Hershey's Natural Cocoa
Nestle Toll House Cocoa
Ghirardelli Chocolate Unsweetened Cocoa Pouch

25 comments:

  1. This is a great article/post. I was going through the same transition from dark chocolate to powder, and searching for some science on it, and found this. Thanks. Also, cocoa is a pretty potent stimulant.

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    1. A year ago I began getting my chocolate fix by stirring a tablespoon of dark cocoa powder into a cup of vanilla yogurt, and sometimes adding pecans or almonds. Tastes like a delicious pudding, without the downside of fats and sugar. Highly recommended.

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    2. Dr weil disagrees with your post Tom Gerlach, He says cocoa is procesed and dark chocolate is better. Maybe he means the cocoa with sugar

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    3. I have the nestles toll house cocoa. It has 1 ingredient - "100% cocoa".

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    4. Unknown / Anonymous - Dark chocolate is made from a combination of cocoa, cocoa butter, and sugar. Cocoa is cocoa. I don't know if you saw my picture but this is exactly why I posted the picture in the blog. If you look at the sign, it says "cocoa" but what they mean is things like hot cocoa, swiss miss, nesquick etc. Real cocoa is found in the baking section. I am sure what Dr. Weil was referring to was the hot cocoa, swiss miss, nesquick, although they have some cocoa, they are mostly sugar, hence why I tell people just to get cocoa.

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  2. Tyler, it was one year ago today that I started on Cocoa. I decided to add it to my regular Oatmeal on VDAY 2012 and the rest was history. Enjoy the cocoa.

    -TG

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    1. When I was growing up the older folks made a cocoa stick. I don't know how they made it but I am assuming that it didn't have any additives, because we used to boil it and then add spices and sugar and milk to make hot cocoa. I started using the cocoa powder a few years ago vs using the cocoa mix which has a lot of additives .

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  3. Yay, glad I found this. Answered my question, thank you.

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  4. Hello Thomas!
    i am living in swiss, so i am not sure i can get RAW things easily. usually people`s reaction are surprising, and i dont find what i want.
    where could i get raw cocoa? you said that `you can find cocoa in baking section`, but that wouldnt be RAW, isnt it?
    thank you in advance. Molinà

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  5. Well technically the cocoa I eat isn't the RAWest it could be, it is still processed to some degree, but to answer your question, you should have something similar in the baking section of your food stores. Where things like Chocolate chips, vanilla, etc are. Truthfully, I never been to Switzerland so I'm not sure what the layout of the stores is, but in the US almost all stores are arranged in a similar way.

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  6. I read that regular supermarket baking cocoa powder isn't raw. Only when the box specifically mentions "raw" then it is and you get the complete micronutrients benefits. In the Netherlands I buy raw cocoa in health food stores in the aisle with the superfoods like goji berries and spirulina. I find the taste of raw cocoa much richer and less bitter than the supermarket stuff but it also is four times more expensive. Still worth it!

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    1. Anonymous, you really can't buy raw cocoa at all. All cocoa is processed if you understand the process of generating the bean into chocolate liquor and then splitting it up between cocoa butter and cocoa. For the sake of this blog when I say raw, I mean that it hasn't been alkalized. Yes if you live somewhere where you have access to the raw bean (directly from the plant) then yes you may able to make it truly raw. And when you buy nibs themselves they have most likely still been roasted.

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  7. What if you mixed the cocoa powder in organic coconut oil, added stevia and froze it as chocolate bites?

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  8. Thanks a lot bro..Great info!

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  9. A powerful punch - Make a workout smoothie out of banana (for carbs), coconut water (for potassium and electrolytes), cocoa (for antioxidants), and just a small pinch of sea salt (for a little extra boost of sodium).

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  10. wikipedia claims,

    Raw unprocessed Cocoa bean 1 oz 7.840

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    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_radical_absorbance_capacity#Food_sources

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  11. Wouldn't raw organic cacao powder be much better than Dutch process cocoa? I think the processing destroys much of the nutrients

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    1. Steve, first off I don't have readily available cacoa numbers that have been tested by an independent organization like USDA. Part of the problem with any information is there is so much mis information it is tought to know what is actually right. That is why I prefer the USDA at least. I can some what trust that body versus other people who are trying to make money of bogus information. Secondly, from my understanding much of the process in terms of heat is done in the very early stages, and usually on site at the harvest locations of the actual cocoa pods, and would likely affect any cocoa plant derivative. Cacao is just a fancy name for Cocoa for all practical purposes, sure this a little refinement that takes place, but again, from my understanding, from talking with someone in the cocoa industry supply chain, the heat used in the refinement process happens on site and is from the sun. Regardless the ORAC value of Cocoa tested by the USDA is remarkable. If you want to purchase organic nibs that is fine to but considerably more costly. Not everyone can afford a truly organic lifestyle. Thanks for your comments :)

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  12. An inquisitive RogerMarch 3, 2017 at 2:52 PM

    Thomas, considering the amount of cocoa you consume and your obvious extreme health consciousness (and with good reason-- a professional triathlete, wow!!!), I'm pretty certain you're familiar with (and have given thought to the consequences of) the presence of lead and cadmium in many chocolate products, particularly those that are high in cocoa, like dark chocolate. A quick search of the web can make anyone aware of the claims of DANGER from chocolate products, but it takes a lot more effort to assess the TRUTH of those claims. That's why I'm posting here-- hoping to hear an intelligent assessment of the truth from you.

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  13. Roger, thanks for the question. The reality of cocoa beans is that they are incredibly low in lead as far as natural foods go. I did see some evidence of possible contamination in the processing phase specifically in regards to cocoa coming out of Nigeria. The reality is that I am often a skeptic and although testing might review something, often times news outlets will publish things because they know it will generate clicks like the WashingtonPost did that hit piece right before Valentine's Day a few years back. Then you have the groups that dig this stuff up, in this case could it be the reason this group went digging had nothing to do cocoa but more to do with a certain political agenda.

    The reality is that all foods have trace amounts of lead but just for you the next time I get my blood tested, which is quarterly, I will add in a lead test. Thanks again for the question :)

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    1. An inquisitive RogerMarch 5, 2017 at 2:12 PM

      The lead test is an excellent idea, Thomas-- though not just for me: it'll dramatically benefit ANYONE who consumes 'a ton of cocoa', as you say you do, just in case the reports of its harmfulness are true. I look forward to reading the results-- when is your next quarterly blood work scheduled?

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    2. It probably won't be until middle of April to May. I want to make sure Florida gets real hot and I am sweating a ton to evaluate things like my Magnesium levels.

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    3. An inquisitive RogerMarch 5, 2017 at 3:33 PM

      I'll be keeping my eye on the weather reports out of Florida, Thomas!

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