Black, white, or milk… Eating chocolate at Easter is an essential tradition. How to find your way among all the delicacies on offer? What differences? With 70% or 100% cocoa? We take stock of all the appellations.

Foodies know it well, not all chocolates are equal. One thing is certain: we have enjoyed this delicacy since the dawn of time. What are the benefits of chocolate and which one to choose? Chocolate remains a high-calorie food which may not be recommended for people with certain pathologies. In what quantity should it be consumed? We'll explain everything about this delicacy that's equally appreciated by adults and children alike.

What is chocolate and where does it come from?

Chocolate is produced from cocoa beans . The bean must first be fermented, roasted and then ground to form a liquid cocoa paste from which the fat called cocoa butter is extracted . Chocolate is the result of a mixture, in varying proportions, of cocoa paste, cocoa butter and sugar .vegetable fats.

What is the history of chocolate?

The discovery of chocolate dates back 4,000 years to ancient Mesoamerica, which corresponds to modern-day Mexico. It is in this region of the world that the first cocoa trees were found. The Olmec civilization , one of the oldest in Latin America, was the first to transform cocoa into chocolate. Initially, chocolate was consumed as an infusion that was drunk during rituals and used as medicine.

Even if we still do not know the precise moment when chocolate was introduced to Spain and therefore to Europe, according to legend, it was the explorer Hernán Cortés who was the first to bring it back to his country in 1528. The famous explorer discovered chocolate during an expedition to America. As soon as it was discovered, chocolate quickly became very popular among rich and prosperous populations before becoming more popular among all social classes over the centuries.

White, dark, milk chocolate… What cocoa content do they contain?

Not everyone wants chocolate. “Chocolate”, “milk chocolate”, “white chocolate”: each corresponds to a strictly regulated composition, with very different percentages of cocoa depending on the type of product.

  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • White chocolate
  • Cocoa paste or cocoa butter is extracted from the fermented cocoa bean, then roasted and ground.

Chocolate confections are not “real” chocolate

You have understood, in “real” chocolate, there is cocoa (at least 25%). Bars, candies, sugared almonds... all these chocolate confectioneries, which children like so much, contain very little cocoa, but are full of sugar and vegetable fats rich in saturated fatty acids.

There is an unroasted chocolate: raw chocolate

Raw chocolate has been the talk of the town for several years . The cocoa bean is not roasted, but simply crushed. Its manufacturing process is done at low temperature (less than 45°C) , which allows all the nutritional qualities of the cocoa to be preserved. Results: a much stronger taste and a very different texture. Less soft, but more crunchy. It is found in the form of small bars (the equivalent of three squares) in organic stores and delicatessens.

Cocoa more expensive in 2024

Attention all gourmands, particularly dark chocolate aficionados: chocolates, bunnies and Easter eggs will cost even more this year: after an initial increase last year of 5%, prices will rise again in 2024 by 5%. on average. Blame it on inflation and the skyrocketing price of cocoa : the price of a ton has thus exceeded $10,000 for the first time in its history. Bad news for your health, because it is also the chocolates containing the most cocoa that are the best for your health.

Is chocolate good for your health?

Antioxidant , good for morale... Those with a sweet tooth do not fail to highlight the health benefits of chocolate. In small quantities, chocolate is good for your health: “Numerous studies have proven the health benefits of dark chocolate . Indeed, it has antioxidant capabilities and is a powerful natural antidepressant . […] Chocolate helps reduce stress and anxiety by stimulating the production of well-being neurotransmitters,” explains Nathalie Negro, head of the nutritional center at the Thermes de Brides-les-Bains (source 1).

Choose the chocolate richest in cocoa

On the other hand, to benefit from the benefits of chocolate, you must look at its cocoa content . The higher it is, the greater the antioxidant action of chocolate: the protective polyphenols come from the cocoa bean. The same goes for anti-stress minerals ( magnesium , potassium , copper, selenium, zinc, iron).

To fully benefit from the nutritional benefits of chocolate, choose it dark and as rich in cocoa as possible (at least 70%). French Association of Dietitians-Nutritionists (AFDN)

A consequence that will not please fans of white chocolate  : containing only cocoa butter, it has none of the health benefits attributed to “real” chocolate, the one containing cocoa.

Chocolate rich in powerful antioxidants

Flavonols, one of the polyphenol families , are powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory action . The antioxidant action of the cocoa bean is even greater than that of other plants. Thanks to its flavonols, cocoa has a vasodilator effect . By promoting the dilation of blood vessels, it helps lower blood pressure.

  • These different combined effects of cocoa, antioxidant and vasodilator, help reduce cardiovascular risk (heart attack, stroke, cholesterol , etc.).
  • The beneficial action of flavonol on blood vessels is also favorable to the proper functioning of the brain . Beneficial for cardiovascular health, cocoa also acts on cognitive function, notably by stimulating memory .

An anti-stress food

Chocolate provides magnesium and serotonin , two elements involved in mental well-being. It does not have the power of an antidepressant medication, but it helps resist stress and regain a feeling of relaxation. Thus, unsweetened cocoa powder contains on average more than 500 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams of product. The richer the chocolate is in cocoa, the more it fights stress and improves mood.

What are the harms of chocolate?

Some doctors from the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) health agency are warning about the fats and sugars contained in chocolate, particularly milk or white chocolate (source 2). They therefore advise consuming these types of chocolate in moderation . Other doctors also warn about caffeine , contained in dark chocolate. This chocolate should therefore be avoided if you have sleep problems. Milk chocolate contains animal fats, so it is not recommended for people with cholesterol . It also contains a lot of sugars, which is not recommended for people with diabetes .

Overall, chocolate can promote weight gain , complications linked to sugar , gastrointestinal disorders, even complications linked to excess potassium in people with fragile kidneys...

Backyard Egg Hunts and Pets: Chocolate is Toxic to Dogs and Cats

Be careful if you have pets and are planning an egg hunt in your yard. chocolate is toxic to them  : the substance in question is theobromine . The dog is the animal most exposed to this poisoning, but it also concerns cats , ferrets and small rodents . Animal insurance Agria thus asserts, in view of data collected from Animal poison control centers, that the ingestion of 100 g of dark chocolate containing 1,600 mg of theobromine can be enough to kill a 10 kg dog. 

The symptoms , which generally appear a few hours after ingestion , are as follows: agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, hypertension, tremors, hyperthermia, etc. In the most serious cases, convulsions, heart problems and coma can occur, which can lead to upon the death of the animal. If your dog or cat has eaten chocolate , contact your veterinarian or a veterinary poison control center as quickly as possible ( list on the National Order of Veterinarians website ).

How much chocolate can you consume per day?

Chocolate is an essential part of the daily life of many French people. According to the Chocolate Union, average consumption in  France  in 2021 amounts to 13.2 kg per year/household (source 3). Despite its appreciated taste and its virtues, it is important to consume it in reasonable quantities. Because chocolate contains sugar and fat, it remains a food to consume moderately: 20 g maximum per day, or two squares . As a reminder, its caloric intake is significant: approximately 500 calories per 100 g.

Tips for consuming chocolate in moderation

Nathalie Negro, head of the nutritional center at the Thermes de Brides-les-Bains, gives her advice for consuming chocolate responsibly .

  • If chocolate tasting is frequent, it is better to opt for chocolate at the end of the meal. Hunger will not interfere, it will only be for pleasure;
  • For quantity: it is better to start with several small subjects rather than one large one and break them into pieces so as not to overuse them (20 to 30 g per day is a good measure). Even better, fried food: take 2 per day;
  • Avoid chocolate filled with praline, which is much more caloric.

What should you do after overindulging in chocolate?

The bells or the Easter bunny have spoiled you, and you have taken advantage of it. But here you are at work after the festive weekend, your  belly full of chocolate  and  your mind full of guilt . Because if chocolate, in small quantities, can be good for morale and give a boost in the middle of the afternoon, its effects are not as beneficial  after two days of abuse . Here is your action plan to forget about these inconveniences.

Destroy temptations

Do you think that a small chocolate egg could do you good to   gently reduce sugar consumption ? This is not the case. Make sure  you no longer leave any temptation at home or at the office . Give your chocolates to whoever you want and help your body by  stocking up on vegetables  at each meal of the day.

Hydrate yourself

Dehydration  , often associated with excesses of any kind, is responsible for fatigue , reduced alertness and mood changes. However, drinking water  helps the kidneys and intestines  eliminate waste from the body .

Rest and move

Sugar-laden candies may make you feel like  you have energy to spare , but watch out for  the dip  that follows. A good night's sleep will help you avoid feeling tired. During the day, take a break to walk or play sports. Exercise releases natural hormones that will help  keep you in shape and keep your spirits up  after the weekend festivities.