Are there Health Benefits to Eating Chocolate?

squares of dark chocolate and chocolate shavings

You’ve probably heard that eating chocolate is good for your health.  Read on to learn more about the facts and fiction of chocolate and your health.

Chocolate…the latest health food?

Chocolate may offer potential health benefits because of compounds called flavonoids.  Flavonoids are antioxidants that help the body repair damaged cells, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. However, much more research needs to be done before we can make recommendations about chocolate and its affect on your heart health.

Types of chocolate

  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder, which are the least processed, have the highest levels of flavonoids and may offer the greatest potential health benefits.

  • Milk chocolate and white chocolate are not good sources of flavonoids, so they offer few benefits.

For sources of flavonoids that don’t have the fat and sugar found in chocolate, choose berries, apples, citrus fruits, grapes, nuts, beans, onions and green tea more often. There is no target amount of flavonoids that we need in our diet, so eating these foods will provide both flavonoids and other important nutrients.

Other things to know about chocolate

  • Chocolate and cocoa contain caffeine. 1 bar of dark chocolate (40 grams) can have around 27 mg of caffeine. Learn more about how much caffeine is safe here.

  • Chocolate labelled as “no added sugar” often contains sweeteners like sugar alcohols. Eating too many sugar alcohols may cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Learn more about the pros and cons of sweeteners.

  • 100% cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains 0 grams of sugar and is a source of iron. Use it in baking or to make a nutritious hot chocolate.  

4 healthy ways to enjoy chocolate:

  • Choose dark chocolate that is at least 40-90% cocoa solids.

  • Keep portion sizes small.

  • Use cocoa powder for baking and beverages. You’ll still get the chocolate taste while keeping the fat and sugar low.

  • Avoid chocolate with candy coatings or creamy centres; these are higher in calories and sugar, and lower in flavonoids.

Recipes to try:

Try these healthier ways to use chocolate:

Spiced Hot Chocolate
Chicken in Mexican Mole Sauce
Chocolate Raspberry Quinoa Pudding
Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Midnight Coconut Lentil Fudge

How can a dietitian help?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counselling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian will work with you to give you personalized advice that meets your lifestyle and goals. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

More research is needed to make claims about the health benefits of eating chocolate. If you enjoy chocolate, limit your portion to small amounts and choose dark chocolate more often as it contains higher amounts of flavonoids.

You may also be interested in:

What You Need to Know About Antioxidants
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
Top 5 Reasons to See a Dietitian
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – April 10, 2023

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