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Dark Chocolate bars stacked on cutting board for Valentine's Day treat

5 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate and How to Choose the Best One

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Here's good news for chocolate lovers: Studies show there can be potential nutritional benefits to consuming certain types of chocolate in moderation. But don’t run to the candy bar aisle just yet; not all chocolate bars are created equal.

Read on for a list of my go-to picks for better-for-you chocolate options, as well as a list of the health benefits of chocolate and what to look for on chocolate labels when the cravings hit.

5 health benefits of dark chocolate

Packed with antioxidants, nutrient-dense dark chocolate has been shown to have a number of health benefits. A few of them are:

  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Enhanced brain function
  • Decreased stress levels

Just remember that eating too much of anything can be detrimental to your health. Moderation is key!

What to look when choosing a chocolate

Natural cocoa is one of top sources of antioxidant-rich flavanols. But the more processed the cocoa, the lower the flavanol content.

  • Look for products containing at least 70% cocoa. The higher the percentage, the more bitter (and less sweet) it will taste, but the healthier it is.
  • Cocoa beans should always be listed first in the ingredient list.
  • Avoid chocolate containing vegetable oil, butter oil, artificial sweeteners or milk substitutes. These are all indicators that the chocolate is subpar.
  • The fewer ingredients, the better.

Love it!

These products have cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolateat the top of their ingredient lists, and a cocoa content of at least 70%.

Choc Zero

  • Per ounce: 120 calories, 10 grams fat, 15 grams carb, 13 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar
  • Ingredients include unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, almonds, sea salt, monkfruit extract, vanilla
  • Vegan

70% Dark Chocolate Hearts by Divine

  • For one piece: 120 calories, 9 grams fat, 9 grams carb, 2.5 grams fiber, 5.5 grams sugar
  • Ingredients include cocoa mass (the first liquid stage of processing cocoa beans), sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla
  • Vegan

Chocolate Bars with 70+ percent cocoa

  • Examples: Chocolove 77%, Alter Eco 70% cocoa
  • Per ounce: approximately 200 calories, 8-15 grams net carbs, 6-9 grams sugar

Like it!

Be cautious about products labeled as dark chocolate but do not have a cocoa percent listed. Most are just 50% to 60% cocoa.

Dove “Dark” Chocolate Promises

  • Per 4-piece serving: 170 calories, 19 grams carbs, 15 grams sugar
  • Not really “dark” chocolate; Contains 60% cocoa, according to the company
  • First ingredient listen is sugar

Hate it!

Avoid products made with milk chocolate(10%-50% cocoa) and white chocolate(zero cocoa, therefore zero flavanols). Both of these are typically high in added sugar.

Milk Chocolate Hearts: Such as Dove Promises, typical heart-shaped chocolates

Dove Milk Chocolate Promises: Per 4-heart serving: 180 calories, 18 grams carbs, 18 grams sugar; first ingredient is sugar

White Chocolate Hearts and Bars

Lindt White Chocolate:Per 3-truffle serving: 230 calories, 15 grams carbs, 15 grams sugar; first ingredient is sugar

Editor’s note: Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is she paid to recommend items. This originally appeared on WGNO’s "FUELED Wellness + Nutrition" segment.

To schedule a nutrition consult, whether virtually or in-person, contact us at or call us at 504-733-1600.


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