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The Surprising Health Benefits of Milk Chocolate

By now, most of us know dark chocolate isn’t just delicious—it’s also good for us.

Studies have found dark chocolate can do everything from alleviate stress to boost brain activity,improve liver health, and relieve the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, among other benefits. This (along with the fact that Americans are developing a taste for strong flavors) helps explain why dark chocolate is now out-selling milk and white varieties.

That’s great news for the dark chocolate lovers in our midst, but what about the folks who prefer the creamier taste of milk chocolate?

As it turns out, milk chocolate boasts its own benefits. Here are four reasons why preferring the milky varieties doesn’t need to be such a guilty pleasure.

Photo Credit: Chocablog

Photo Credit: Chocablog

It’s high in calcium.

Thanks to the fact that it’s made with milk, milk chocolate contains significantly more calcium than the darker stuff. Our bodies rely on calcium to maintain strong bones and to sustain the healthy function of our hearts, muscles, and nerves. Without enough calcium, our bodies don’t function as well and we risk developing weak bones or osteoarthritis. Of course, milk chocolate isn’t the only source of calcium (other great sources include yogurt, cheese, dark leafy vegetables, sardines, and salmon)—but it does offer an exceptionally tasty way to up your calcium intake.

It may be good for your heart.

One large-scale study of nearly 21,000 British adults found the regular consumption of chocolate was correlated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. While some of the study participants preferred dark chocolate, most of them opted for milk chocolate treats. The results? The risk of heart disease went down by 14 percent, while the risk of stroke went down by 23 percent.

When the researchers combined their findings with nine other studies looking at the relationship between chocolate and heart disease (for a total of almost 158,000 participants), the results were even more impressive: High chocolate consumption was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 21 percent lower risk of stroke. Once again, most of the study participants preferred milk chocolate.

While it should be noted that correlation doesn’t equal causation, the researchers believe chocolate of all stripes can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to the brain, and decreasing the risk of blood clots. It’s also possible the calcium and fatty acids found in milk chocolate may have an additional heart-healthy effect.

It may boost brain health.

One 2009 study found the consumption of milk chocolate led to improvements in a number of cognitive functions, including memory, problem solving, and attention span. The researchers attributed these benefits to the chocolate’s high levels of procyanidin (a flavonoid that can reduce inflammation in the brain) and thiamin (aka vitamin B1, which has an energizing effect).

Anything dark chocolate can do, so can milk chocolate (just not to the same degree).

Dark chocolate is known for its high levels of antioxidants, which can positively impact people’s health in a number of ways. That’s thanks to the high cocoa content of dark chocolate, which typically lands at 60 percent or more. Because milk chocolate generally hovers around the 20 percent mark (although, at TCHO, our milk chocolate products are 39% and 53%), it simply doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as dark chocolate. But “less” is not the same as “zero”. While it doesn’t pack the same antioxidant punch as dark chocolate, milk chocolate still contains good-for-you polyphenols, which can assist with everything from immunity to hair health and stress relief. If you’re choosing a chocolate expressly for its health benefits, the darker the better—but you’ll still benefit from some antioxidants if you prefer the milk varieties.

If dark chocolate doesn’t whip your taste buds into a frenzy, there’s no need to feel guilty. Whether your flavor preferences lean toward Hazelnut Chunk, Toffee + Sea Salt, or Mokaccino, you can rest assured milk chocolate comes with its own benefits. Just remember the importance of moderation: A diet consisting of nothing but milk chocolate won’t do a body good. But the occasional treat may offer some health benefits in addition to tasting delicious.