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Product Review: Cocoa Powders, Dark Chocolate, Extracts, Nibs, & Supplements -- Sources of Flavanols

Initial Posting: 5/17/14  EXPANDED: 8/1/14 and 10/28/15  Last Update: 12/13/16
Flavanols in Cocoa, Cacoa, and Chocolate Products Reviewed by Your Cocoa May Be Contaminated! See What's Really in Cocoa, Cacao, and Dark Chocolate Products.

Find the Best Choices Now!

Alphabetical list of cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate products covered in report.
Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Bar All Natural Hershey's Cocoa - Natural Unsweetened Rapunzel Organic Cocoa Powder
Cacao by Advanced Physician Formulas Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Reserveage CocoaWell
CocoaVia Sweetened Dark Chocolate flavored mix Navitas Naturals Cacao Nibs Source Naturals ChocoLift
Endangered Species Chocolate Natural Dark Chocolate Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder Sunfood Raw Cacao Powder
Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Cocoa Nestle Toll House Cocoa Swanson Full Spectrum Cacao
Ghirardelli Chcolate Intense Dark Twilight Delight NOW Certified Organic Cocoa Powder Trader Joe's 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Green & Black's ORGANIC 85% Cacao Bar NuNaturals Pure Liquid Cocoa Bean Extract Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder Unsweetened
Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate    
Make sure the cocoa, cacao, or chocolate you use passed our tests and is right for you!
Isn't your health worth it?

Cocoa powders, chocolates, and other products made from cacao beans can be rich in flavanols — which may help with blood flow, blood pressure, memory, and cholesterol levels. But which are the best? It's not easy to tell from labels.

We discovered that many products are contaminated with high amounts of cadmium — a toxic heavy metal, and/or lead. Some also contain small amounts of lead.

The other important thing we tested for was flavanols. While some products were rich in flavanols, several provide only tiny amounts. For example, among cocoa supplements, several contained just 3 or 4 mg of flavanols, while capsules of another brand contained about ten times this amount. One popular cocoa powder had just one-third the flavanols of other popular brands. Among dark chocolate bars, we found that you can't tell the amount of flavanols based on the % cocoa (or cacao). In fact, we discovered that some bars with 72% cocoa had more flavanols per gram than products with 85% and 90% cocoa. Similarly, we found that you could spend more that $7 to get a dose of flavanols which cost only about 50 cents or less from some other products.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, be aware that some products pack as much caffeine in a daily serving as 1 ½ cups of coffee, while other products have little caffeine.

You must join to get our suggestions of the best cocoa and chocolate products, with test results for 22 cocoa/cacao powders, capsules, nibs, liquids, or dark chocolate bars along with's recommendations and quality ratings. You will get results for twenty supplements selected by and one that passed voluntary, quality certification testing.  

In this comprehensive report, you'll discover:
    • Which cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate products failed testing, which passed, and which were the best all around.  
    • Direct comparisons and quality ratings of cocoa, cacao, and chocolate products  
    • How cocoa powder, cocoa extract, nibs, cacao, and dark and milk chocolates differ in terms of flavanols, contaminants, and caffeine 
    • Cost comparisons, showing you which of the best cocoa, cacao, and chocolate products are lowest cost  
    • Dosage information for using cocoa-based products -- and what clinical studies have shown
    • Side-effects, cautions, and potential drug interactions with cocoa and chocolate  

If you already are a member, SIGN IN now. Answers -- for Cocoa Powders, Dark Chocolate, Extracts, Nibs, & Supplements -- Sources of Flavanols
Do any supplements help prevent sunburn or skin damage from sun exposure? Get the answer >>

How much cocoa or chocolate do I need to consume in order to get a benefit? Get the answer >>

Why does dark chocolate have iron in it? Is it, or cocoa, a good dietary source of iron? Get the answer >>

Which dark chocolate bar has the most flavanols with the least calories? Get the answer >>

Why is there so much cadmium, a toxin, in cocoa powders but not in dark chocolate? Get the answer >>

I heard somewhere to avoid chocolate with "processed with alkali" in the ingredients. Is that true? Get the answer >>

How much fat is there in chocolate? Is it saturated fat? Get the answer >>

How much caffeine is really in dark chocolate bars? Get the answer >>

Can chocolate and cocoa powder cause eczema? Get the answer >>

Which supplements can help to lower blood pressure? Get the answer >>

Which supplements can help with indigestion and/or heartburn? Get the answer >>

Are cocoa and chocolate products contaminated with the fungal toxin ochratoxin A (OTA) ? Get the answer >>

(3/29/16): Independent testing of chocolates by a group in California found that many exceed that state's limits for reproductive harm from lead and cadmium. Some of these products are among those previously tested by in this Review. Details are posted in the Update at the top of the full review.

(1/14/15): was forwarded responses from two more companies about the heavy metals reported finding in their cocoa products. These messages, and our response to them, are now posted in the Update at the top of the full review.

(10/28/14): Due to demand among our readers, tested and added an additional 6 dark chocolate bars to this review. 

(8/1/14): Due to demand among our readers, tested and added an additional 6 cocoa powders to this review.

(5/22/14): received copies of letters from the distributors of the two products discovered to be contaminated with cadmium. These letters were sent to concerned customers who forwarded them to

The distributor of one product has put the product "On Hold" pending that company's review of the data and it acknowledges that the cadmium level is "higher than we prefer." It claims that, based on tests it has performed, cadmium levels in certain of its other cocoa products are very low.

The distributor of the other product states that it feels confident about the safety of its cacao products although it is reevaluating other cacao products available in the marketplace to determine how different supply sources may affect the presence of heavy metals. For details, see the "Update" at the top of the full review.


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