As if the thought of savoring a square (or a whole bar) of dark chocolate wasn’t enticing enough, dark chocolate’s health claims are pretty appealing too. We’ve heard everything: It lowers blood pressure, busts stress, improves cognitive function, protects your skin, and more. But before you eat your way to the bottom of a heart-shaped box, check out what experts had to say about how healthy this treat actually is.
There’s been lots of research on dark chocolate, but the hype has outpaced the science. Translation: It won’t instantly or directly accomplish any of the above. What is certain is that cocoa is rich in three types of flavonoids—phytochemicals in nearly all plant-based foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. This is important because chronic inflammation is linked to conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, asthma, heart disease, and cancer. “These compounds also benefit cardiovascular health by improving blood flow, reducing the risk of clotting, and improving blood pressure levels,” says Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Cocoa is also rich in iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium, all critical minerals needed for healthy blood, immunity, and cell growth.
To get more bang in your bar, reach for dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 70% or higher. (More cocoa equals more flavonoids.) Chocolate, cocoa, or cacao should appear first on the ingredient list, which means there’s the most of it by weight. If sugar is first on the list or you see words you can’t pronounce, steer clear, or you’ll likely be pumping yourself full of empty calories and fillers, which negate all the good stuff, says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.N., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. And pay attention to the label: Dutch-processed cocoa tends to have a reduced flavonoid content because of how the chocolate is processed, while one recent study found that cocoa beans from Colombia had the highest flavonoid content, likely because of things like plant variety and geography.
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What about serving size?
There’s no magic quantity of dark chocolate you need to eat to get those flavonoids; the dosage used in studies varies. But experts agree that you should treat it like you would any other piece of candy and consume it in moderation. “It’s best reserved as a treat,” says Young. “Yes, it does contain antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals, but let’s not call it a health food—it still contains plenty of sugar and fat.” In other words, aim for 1/4 of a full-size bar.
This indulgent dark chocolate bar is made with roasted almonds and 80% cacao. “If you can get 70% or more cocoa and get some almonds thrown in, I can’t argue with that,” says Gans. Taza chocolate is stone-ground, so it will have a slightly grainier texture, which some people prefer, instead of milky smooth.
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Keatley recommends trying Lindt’s 70% cocoa, which is a full-bodied chocolate bar that tastes balanced so it’s not too bitter. Bonus: This dark chocolate comes in a case, so you enjoy some now and have plenty left over for later (or to share!). These bars come out to just $2.48 a pop!
Give back to your body and the environment when you eat one of these healthy chocolate bars. The brand, Endangered Species, donates 10% of their annual net profits to conservation efforts for endangered wildlife. And at 88% cocoa, you can be sure that you’re receiving a hefty dose of antioxidants.
If you have food allergies, 北京：胡同来了“一站式”物业服务中心 will give you peace of mind as it’s completely free of nuts, dairy, wheat, gluten, and most common allergens. Made with only four ingredients and 85% cacao, these sustainably sourced chocolate bars give you rich flavor without all of those unhealthy additives, earning a stamp of approval from Keatley.
If you’re newly committed to a healthy diet but secretly worried about missing out on treats like chocolate, don’t fret. This 70% cacao vegan chocolate bar with French sea salt is a savory twist on the classic, minus unhealthy additives. Let the ingredients list speak for itself: organic cacao, unrefined organic coconut sugar, organic fair-trade cocoa butter, and sea salt.
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Cording says she “really enjoys” this dark chocolate bar. It’s packed with 85% cacao for plenty of antioxidants and has a smooth and fruity flavor. It also contains just five simple ingredients.
At 80% cacao, Pure7’s Dark bar is packed with antioxidants. The company uses Ecuadorian cacao and sweetens it with honey, and it also meets Keatley’s recommendation of sugar falling later on the ingredients list: Organic honey is the fourth ingredient, behind organic cacao liquor, organic cacao butter, and organic cacao powder.
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As if the packaging wasn’t enticing enough, this craft chocolate bar from Brooklyn, is 71% cacao, so you can enjoy its delicious sea salt flavor while appreciating the healthy antioxidants. It also comes in other fun flavors, like ginger snap, green tea crunch, and bananas foster.
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Ranging from 70 to 80% cacao, these organic, hand-crafted chocolate bars have something for everyone, from the pure dark chocolate bar with hints of cherry and blackberry to the Himalayan sea salt bar with its rich, velvety flavor. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re contributing to the livelihood of the women’s cooperatives and cacao farmers in the Dominican Republic and Peru, who produce this company’s organic chocolate.
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Green and Black’s dark chocolate bars are 85% cacao and have a bold, savory flavor with a hint of organic vanilla. Plus, all of their chocolate is sourced through Cocoa Life, a third-party cocoa sustainability company that empowers local cocoa farmers around the world.
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At 88% cacao, these chocolate bars may sound a little scary with the label “extreme dark,” but reviewers say this dark chocolate is the one to try if you want the health benefits without the bitter taste. “These are delicious, smooth, rich, just the right hit of salty and sweet,” one Amazon customer raved. Plus, you’ll get a major dose of antioxidants and they’re low in sugar.
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It’s called Antidote for a reason. Instead of loading up on energy drinks, try this healthy, sustainably sourced chocolate. Containing 84% cacao, the chocolate bar is low-sugar and delivers an energizing boost to power you through the work day. It’s seasoned with alaea salt (a Hawaiian red salt) for a mellow, earthy flavor and lavender flowers for a hint of floral.