Aside from cheese and wine, there are probably few things in this world that are more universally loved than chocolate. I mean, what's not to love about chocolate? It's sweet. It's rich. Its dark varieties are high in antioxidants, which have proven health benefits. But what about those of us who don't enjoy the taste of bitter chocolate (because, really, what's the point)? Are there any benefits for us? Will we ever be able to have our chocolate and eat it, too? Basically what I'm getting at with this seemingly endless line of questioning is: Is milk chocolate good for you? Well, a study recently published in the Journal of Food Science has good news for milk chocolate lovers.
While scientists have known about the benefits of dark chocolate for years, they did not believe milk chocolate boasted the same health benefits. Researchers from an August 2003 study on chocolate's antioxidant properties found that "milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate." In other words, if you wanted those chocolatey health benefits, dark chocolate was the only way to go — until now.
A recent study found that adding peanut skins to milk chocolate can give it some antioxidant properties typically attributed to dark chocolate. Why peanut skins? Well, two reasons. One, according to the study, "peanut skins are currently a waste product of the blanching process of the peanut industry," so using them could be a sustainable choice. As a side note, I think that means you can't just eat a chocolate peanut butter cup for health benefits — sorry. Two, and more importantly, peanut skins contain phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers added the peanut skins, encapsulated with maltodextrin to make them sweeter, to milk chocolate. They found that the milk chocolate had comparable levels of antioxidants to dark chocolate, and there was no noticeable effect on the taste. And if you're wondering, researchers aren't sure yet if it's safe for people with peanut allergies to eat.
It would be very easy — and understandable — to go screaming this good news from the rooftops. But before you go to the grocery store and buy up their supply of milk chocolate, yelling that it's just as good for you as dark chocolate, pause. For one, this healthier milk chocolate isn't in mass production yet (obviously). But on a less apparent note, not everyone in the scientific community is completely convinced. Dr. Jennifer Stagg told Bravo, "...the addition of phenolic compounds from peanut skins cannot offer an equal substitute for all of the compounds found in dark chocolate."
She added, "While there would be health benefits seen in the new and improved milk chocolate, the dark chocolate would still come out on top." Ugh, fine.
Even though this might not be the miracle milk chocolate we hoped for, I'll take what I can get. Sure, it might not be as good as dark chocolate, but if it tastes better and is at least slightly better for me, you're not about to see me complaining. Besides, is anybody really just eating chocolate for the antioxidants? Exactly.
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