The ultimate indulgence, chocolate's place in human culture dates back to the ancient Aztecs. Cocoa butter is the fat from the cocoa bean -- it has a hard texture and a taste similar to white chocolate, minus the sweetness -- while dark chocolate is typically made from a mixture of cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter. Even though they're both made from cocoa beans, dark chocolate and cocoa butter have different nutritional profiles, and dark chocolate contains more minerals and phytonutrients.
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Both cocoa butter and dark chocolate are moderately high in calories. Each ounce of cocoa butter contains around 248 calories, while dark chocolate contains 167 calories per ounce. All of cocoa butter's calories come from fat, while dark chocolate gets its calories from a mix of fat, carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. While each tablespoon of cocoa butter comes packed with 14 grams of fat, it's mostly heart-healthy fat that doesn't harm your cholesterol levels, explains Harvard Medical School.
If you're looking to increase your essential mineral intake, choose dark chocolate over cocoa butter. It's high in iron, offering 3.3 milligrams, or 19 percent of the daily value per serving. Dark chocolate also contains manganese and copper -- 25 and 27 percent of the daily values per serving, respectively. These minerals activate enzymes -- proteins your cells need to function properly -- and support other physiological functions, including wound healing. Cocoa butter doesn't serve as a source of any essential minerals.
Dark chocolate also comes out ahead of cocoa butter when it comes to phytonutrients. These beneficial compounds are found in the cocoa solids -- the stuff that makes dark chocolate dark -- so they're removed from the cocoa butter during processing. Dark chocolate's polyphenol content gives it a high antioxidant capacity, which means that it can help prevent blood cholesterol oxidation, a process linked to atherosclerosis. It also fights harmful inflammation and helps your endothelial cells -- the cells that line your blood vessels -- work properly.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
You can enjoy dark chocolate on its own or in recipes, but cocoa butter is best used in cooking. If you're confident in the kitchen, you can use cocoa butter as a base for homemade chocolate -- by making it yourself, you can easily control your sugar intake by using less in your recipe. Alternatively, use chopped dark chocolate as a healthful topping for oatmeal, yogurt or cereal, or blend it into fruit smoothies. Whether you're cooking with cocoa butter or dark chocolate, measure your portions. Because both foods are calorie-dense, it's easy to overeat if you eyeball your serving size.