Chocolate has long satisfied the cravings of many people who have a “sweet tooth,” and in ages past, chocolate was prescribed by village medicine men for a variety of ailments. No surprise, then, that in its many forms chocolate is as popular today as it was in yesteryear -- one of the reasons being the biochemical reactions that occur after eating even a small serving.
Two Types of Chocolate
The two basic types of chocolate are milk chocolate, which contains ample amounts of sugar that sweeten the taste considerably, and dark chocolate, which generally has little sugar added, contributing to dark chocolate’s familiar bitterness. Note that white chocolate isn’t actually chocolate since it’s created using various oils and contains no cocoa, the chief ingredient in both milk and dark chocolate.
Using one serving of a milk chocolate bar from Swiss chocolate maker Lindt as an example, it contains approximately 230 calories, 23 g of sugar, 13 g of fat – 8 of which are saturated – and 75 g of sodium. Other listed nutritional facts are negligible. Due to the high sugar content, you will immediately notice the sweet sensation on your tongue; what you won’t instantly notice is the rise in your blood sugar, an event that, according to the authors of the book “Chocolate: Food of the Gods,” may take anywhere from five to 15 minutes.
Most dark chocolate features less sugar than milk chocolate, so the effect on your blood sugar level is diminished. Comparing Lindt’s 85 percent chocolate bar to the milk chocolate bar, you will ingest 210 calories, 18 g of fat -- 11 of which are saturated -- and 3 g of sugar. The fat content is higher, but less added sugar equals no spike in blood sugar.
When eating either type of chocolate, the immediate sensation is one of either sweetness or bitterness. Immediate gratification leads to psychological feelings of comfort and satisfaction; after all, chocolate is considered a comfort food by many people. After five to 15 minutes, the sugar in milk chocolate – which is a simple carbohydrate – is converted to blood glucose and is available as a quick energy source. Depending on your level of activity over the next hour or so, the rise in blood sugar means a rise in energy levels; however, after this energy expires, you will “crash,” meaning your blood glucose level will drop.
The drop in blood sugar causes feelings of lethargy after eating milk chocolate. After eating dark chocolate, though, you will generally feel hunger subside, due to dark chocolate’s higher fat content; ingested fat causes a quicker sense of satiety, a feeling not generally reported by milk chocolate consumers. Although there’s some debate among scientists, chocolate eaters report the sensation of being in love after consuming chocolate. This feeling may be due to the presence of natural enzymes in cocoa that cause a rise in dopamine, the brain chemical that positively affects mood.
- “Chocolate: Food of the Gods”; Alex Szogyi & Hofstra University; 1997
- Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics: Chocolate Theory of Love
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing & Prescription, 7th Ed."; American College of Sports Medicine; 2006