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Dark Chocolates, Cocoa & Cacao Powders, Nibs, and Supplements Review -- Sources of Flavanols
Initial Posting: 7/16/17; EXPANDED 12/21/19 Last Update: 4/5/20
Find the Best Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Supplements
Is Your Chocolate or Cocoa Healthful or Toxic? Find Out Now!
Alphabetical list of cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate products compared in this review
Alter Eco Deep Dark Blackout
Futurebiotics Dark Chocolate Extract
Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder
Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate Bar
Ghirardelli Chocolate Premium Baking Chips
Navitas Organics Organic Cacao Nibs
Baker's Unsweetened - 100% Cacao
Ghirardelli Chocolate Premium Baking Cocoa
Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate - 85% Cacao
Chocolove Extra Strong - 77% Cocoa Content
Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao
Scharffen Berger Unsweetened - 99% Cacao
Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate - 70% Cocoa Content
Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
Hawaii Pharm Cacao
Taza Chocolate Wicked Dark - 95% Dark
CocoaVia - Cran-Raspberry (Mix)
Healthworks Cacao Nibs
Theo Sea Salt - 70% Dark Chocolate
CocoaVia - Original (Mix)
Healthworks Cacao Powder
Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder Unsweetened
CocoaVia - Sweetened Dark Chocolate Mix
Hershey's Cocoa - 100% Cacao Natural Unsweetened
Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Cacao Powder
CocoaVia - Unsweetened Dark Chocolate Mix
Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark - 100% Cacao
Trader Joe's Pound Plus - 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Dagoba Organic Chocolate Cacao Powder
Lily's Dark Chocolate - Original - Stevia Sweetened
Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar
Dove Dark Chocolate
Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark - 90% Cocoa
Valrhona Poudre De Cacao Cocoa Powder - 100% Cacao
Endangered Species Chocolate Strong + Velvety Dark Chocolate
Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Absolute Black
Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs Organic
Equal Exchange Chocolates Organic Panama Extra Dark
Moser Roth Edel Bitter 85% Cacao
Volupta Cacao Powder
Make sure the cocoa, cacao, or chocolate you use passed our tests and is right for you!
Isn't your health worth it?
Summary: What You Need to Know About Dark Chocolates, Cocoa & Cacao Powders, Nibs and Supplements
What are the health benefits? Cocoa-based products contain flavanols which are associated with modest potential benefits regarding blood flow, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, exercise, memory/cognition, skin wrinkles, and blood sugar control (see What It Does).
Which product is best?Be careful! Our tests show that many popular cocoa powders and cacao nibs, as well as some dark chocolates, are contaminated with high levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal (see What CL Found). Fortunately, we were able to identify a few great products that minimize cadmium exposure, maximize flavanols, offer superior value, and even minimize calories without sacrificing flavor. See CL's Top Picks.
How much do I need? Clinical studies suggest the following total daily intakes of flavanols for the purposes noted below, although further research is needed to confirm benefits and optimal dosing:
To get these amounts look at the 3rd column in the Results Table below. It will show you the amount of flavanols in a serving of each product.
Is it safe? Although cocoa and chocolate products are generally safe, it may be best to limit consumption of products due to contaminants, as well as calories (See How much of a danger is cadmium and lead from cocoa and chocolate?) Be aware that the caffeine and theobromine in cocoa products may cause side effects as well as interfere with the actions of certain drugs. Cocoa and chocolate products may also trigger migraines in some people and may trigger allergic contact dermatitis in nickel-sensitive individuals. People with milk allergies should be aware that dark chocolate bars may contain milk (see Concerns and Cautions).
You must be a ConsumerLab.com member to get the full test results along with ConsumerLab.com's Top Picks among products. You'll get immediate access to the amounts of flavanols and cadmium that we discovered in 42 dark chocolate bars and chips, cocoa powders, cacao nibs, and cocoa supplements, including 37 selected by ConsumerLab.com and five products tested through our voluntary Quality Certification Program.
If you are sensitive to caffeine or theobromine, you'll also want to see how much we found in each dark chocolate bar and supplement — something not typically listed on labels.
In this comprehensive review, you'll discover:
Which cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate products failed testing and which passed
ConsumerLab.com's Top Picks among the best cocoa and dark chocolate products
Direct comparisons and quality ratings of cocoa, cacao, and chocolate products
Cost comparisons, showing you which cocoa, cacao, and chocolate products provide the most flavanols at 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 dark chocolate, including concerns about allergies, acne, acrylamide, migraine, ochratoxin A, blood sugar control, and kidney stones
Question: Does CoQ10 reduce wrinkles, increase skin elasticity, or tighten the skin? Are there any other supplements that can help? Get the answer >>
Question: Which supplements can help with indigestion and/or heartburn? Get the answer >>
Question: What is acrylamide? Is it true that coffee and cocoa contain this toxin? Get the answer >>
Question: I asked the distributor of my cacao powder how it checks for metals. They say they do "foreign material detection" to capture "metal fragments." Is this adequate for checking cacao and cocoa for heavy metals, like cadmium, which you've found in other products? Get the answer >>