There may be some more hidden health benefits the next time you reach for a chocolate cupcake, candy bar or cup of pudding.
While the debate between what tastes better between milk chocolate and dark chocolate rages on, antioxidant rich dark chocolate has more health benefits and researchers are attempting to improve the benefits of the milkier version.
Researchers led by Lisa Dean, associate professor of food science for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, explain in a recent study that adding peanut skin extract mixed with a sweet, edible powder called maltodextrin, to milk chocolate gives it some of the heart health benefits that dark chocolate has, while maintaining the sweeter chocolate taste.
“If applied to commercial products, peanut skin extracts would allow consumers to enjoy mild tasting products and have exposure to compounds that have proven health benefits,” Dean said in a statement.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which prevent or delay some types of cell damage. While the benefits of dark chocolate outweigh the benefits of milk chocolate, many people prefer the lighter and sweeter version of chocolate when they are reaching for a candy bar.
According to an article in Science News for Students, all chocolate contains antioxidant-laden cocoa beans and those beans are broken down into cocoa solids and a fat called cocoa butter to produce chocolate. To produce chocolate commercially manufacturers add sugar to the product, with more sugar added to milk chocolate, as well as milk or cream, than what is added to dark chocolate.
With the additives, milk chocolate has less cocoa than dark chocolate, which also means it contains less antioxidants. In the past when scientists have attempted to add antioxidants to milk chocolate they have impacted the overall taste.
However, peanut skin extract has both improved the health benefits of milk chocolate without having the taste suffer. While healthier cookies, cakes and brownies are certainly needed, another benefit is the ability to use peanut skins, which is a byproduct of peanut butter production and is mostly buried as wastes in landfills.
Dean and her team of scientists decided to test out the new and improved milk chocolate by giving a sample piece of the new milk chocolate along with two pieces of regular milk chocolate to 100 volunteers.
The results were overwhelming.
Only 20 percent of the volunteers picked up on any extra bitterness, while 80 percent noticed no difference between the chocolate with peanut skin extract and the chocolate without it.
Dean said that peanut allergenicity was not investigated during the original study, but work is ongoing.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Food Science, can be viewed here.