Good news for chocolate lovers: Studies show that 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.
These products have cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate at the top of their ingredient lists, and a cocoa content of at least 70%.
- 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
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
Chocolate Bars with 70+ percent cocoa
- Examples: Acalli 70% dark chocolate (local NOLA company), Chocolove 77%, Alter Eco 70% cocoa
- Per ounce: approximately 200 calories, 8-15 grams net carbs, 6-9 grams sugar
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Be cautious about products labeled as dark chocolate but do not have a cocoa percent listed. Most are just 50% to 60% cocoa.
- 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
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 “Get the Skinny” segment.