Chocolate is good for your health!

Food lovers cannot seem to get enough chocolate, which is quite convenient because chocolate has lots of benefits 😊 On this article, we take a closer look with nutritionist Anthony Berthou.

Understanding what goes into chocolate

Chocolate is made from cacao beans harvested from cocoa trees. It has three main ingredients:

  • Cocoa mass: Also known as chocolate liquor, it is made from ground cacao beans. Cocoa mass naturally contains 55% cocoa butter and 45% cocoa solids.
  • Cocoa butter: It is obtained by cold pressing cacao beans, which separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids.
  • Sugar

The cocoa percentage given on chocolate bars reflects the amount of cacao contained in the chocolate, namely, the cocoa mass (a mix of cocoa butter and cocoa solids) and cocoa butter.

Extraordinary antioxidant powers

Cacao has extraordinary antioxidant powers, so it contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, degenerative neural disorders and even cancer (read our post about antioxidants).

Its protective benefits are concentrated in the cocoa mass, or cocoa powder, which is rich in polyphenols, the most powerful antioxidants. Therefore, the higher the cacao content in the chocolate, the greater its antioxidant properties.This is why dark chocolate packs the most antioxidants. A single square of 70% dark chocolate contains twice as many polyphenols as a glass of red wine and just as much as a cup of green tea that has been steeped for a long time. The antioxidant content of milk chocolate, however, is rather low and white chocolate has none because it does not contain any cocoa solids.

Consuming 20 grams of at least 70% dark chocolate each day (or two small squares) gives the body a valuable dose of antioxidants and works as a precious health food. The best time to enjoy it is with an afternoon snack.

Additional benefits of chocolate

Chocolate is also very rich in magnesium thanks to its cacao content. Dark chocolate contains nearly twice as much magnesium as milk chocolate. Magnesium deficiency is relatively common: nearly 70% of the adult population may not get enough magnesium. These shortfalls can result in fatigue, sleep disorders and irritability.

Because chocolate also contains sugar, it optimizes the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is a key determiner of mood. It encourages feelings of calm and wellness. Cacao may also play a part in mood regulation through the presence of a special compound, theobromine.

Finally, some of the antioxidants contained in chocolate (flavonols) may promote the growth of intestinal bacteria that are good for our health, meaning they may be beneficial to the intestinal flora.

What about chocolate’s environmental impact?

Chocolate is a hallmark of the holidays and a favorite for gift giving and indulgence, which means worldwide demand for chocolate continues to grow. To meet this soaring demand, forests are being cleared to plant new cacao trees. The chocolate industry may be the leading cause of deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Furthermore, growing cacao trees takes a heavy toll on water resources.

But the situation is starting to improve: several large chocolate companies and cacao brokers are shifting toward “zero deforestation” policies.

Thus, it is best to limit your chocolate intake – and especially to avoid consuming the low-quality chocolate that is widely gifted around holidays. Whenever possible, opt for fair trade chocolate, which imposes somewhat stricter environmental criteria.

Choosing chocolate wisely

Here are some factors to consider to choose a chocolate wisely:

Pick a dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao, because the cocoa powder contains all the benefits of chocolate. Ideally, try to make a gradual transition to 90% chocolate.


Check the list of ingredients. Chocolate only requires basic ingredients: cocoa mass (or liquor), sugar and cocoa butter. Avoid chocolate that contains flavorings or additives such as lecithins.


Choose "pure cocoa butter" chocolate. Some mass manufacturers use less expensive fats such as palm oil or shea butter.

Opt for organic chocolate because cacao bean plantations are also susceptible to extensive use of pesticides.

Chocolate is still a high-calorie food that contains fat. So you should limit your intake to two or three squares of 70% dark chocolate per day: that is enough to reap all its benefits. The best solution is to eat only raw cocoa powder, which has very little sugar or fat. You can sprinkle it over your dishes or desserts.

Sources

  • http://www.sante-et-nutrition.com/chocolat-nutrition/
  • Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779–2811.
  • https://ciqual.anses.fr/
  • Martín-Peláez S, Camps-Bossacoma M, Massot-Cladera M, Rigo-Adrover M, Franch À, Pérez-Cano FJ, Castell M. Effect of cocoa's theobromine on intestinal microbiota of rats. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Oct;61(10).
  • Magrone T, Russo MA, Jirillo E. Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Polyphenols: From Biology to Clinical Applications. Front Immunol. 2017 Jun 9;8:677.
  • Nanetti L, Raffaelli F, Tranquilli AL, Fiorini R, Mazzanti L, Vignini A. Effect of consumption of dark chocolate on oxidative stress in lipoproteins and platelets in women and in men. Appetite. 2012 Feb;58(1):400-5.
  • Rev. Med. Suisse, 2009, 239, 34716.
  • J. Pharm. Belg., 2002, 57, HS2, 29-34.
  • Etude SU.VI.MAX (SUpplémentation en VItamines et Minéraux Anti-oXydants), Dr S. Hercberg , 1994 -2003.
  • https://www.notre-planete.info/actualites/1865-chocolat-environnement-deforestation
  • http://www.mightyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/MEO_001_Chocolate-Report_french_FOR-WEB.pdf
  • https://waterfootprint.org/en/

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16 comments

  1. Elizalde

    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Paula

    Love this app! It has really taught me to scan everything!

    1
    Reply
  3. Sharon

    What about the lead? Recent analysis showed lead becomes part of the chocolate because the beans are dried outdoors and become contaminated. Help us avoid lead contamination, please!

    1
    Reply
  4. Suvane

    You are so wonderful Thank you for what you do How’s NY treating you Have you talked with the FDA and told them how they are killing us with their poisonous additives that they allow?! No doubt like talking to the wall

    1
    Reply
  5. Gail

    I have the Yuka app and love it! It has helped us stay on track with eating a healthy diet. I highly recommend this app to health conscious folks.

    1
    Reply
  6. Christi

    I am wondering why the lead and cadmium content is not mentioned in this article? This issue has me concerned as you recommend 2 ounces per day and Consumer’s Report says not to exceed 1 ounce per day per adult to avoid toxic levels.

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    Reply
    1. Johanne

      I was going to comment exactly the same thing Christi. I am a dark chocolate lover and I wish we could have some info about this on the labels. The darker we go, the worse it is in terms of heavy metals level; it becomes hard to find the right balance 😉

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      Reply
      1. Josephine

        so does that mean if I eat cocoa powder daily a tablespoon < is that bad?

        4
  7. Gina

    I also love the Yuka app! It has been super helpful when making choices of what to buy or not. I try to eat mostly organic but it is more expensive and not always readily available. When I see that red ingredient flag, back to the shelf, lol. Just wanted to comment on the chocolate, I do a lot of research and have found that unfortunately chocolate or cacao contains heavy metals to varying degrees depending on soil conditions and where it is grown. Just a thought!

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    Reply
  8. Jerolyn

    Curious why you rated my 85% dark chocolate as poor.

    Also, a poor rating gor coconut oil, MCT oil and Coconut Aminos. All single ingredient products

    Reply
  9. Nick

    Does yuka have a stance on chocolate produced with alkali? It has those produced that way highly rated so I’m guessing they don’t care but I thought this was a contaminant

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    Reply
  10. Sush

    Yuka is something, I always wanted to have by my side. I rely on this to transform my journey to healthy life for me and my family. Thank you so so much Yuka. 🙂

    1
    Reply
  11. Atala

    I ❤️ Yuka sooo much and all the good information to help people eat healthier. Thank you 😊

    2
    Reply
  12. Connie Cauthen

    Thanks I loved the info

    1
    Reply
  13. Keith

    What about the cadmium and lead found in much chocolate?

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    Reply
  14. Robin

    Yuka, has changed my life in sooo many ways. I use the app while grocery shopping to make healthier choices and boy my eyes have been opened up to the ingredients I thought were good that aren’t. So thank you 😊

    5
    Reply