Initially Posted: 12/20/2019 | Last Updated: 09/12/2020
Flavanols in Cocoa, Cacoa, and Chocolate Products Reviewed by ConsumerLab.com

Alphabetical list of cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate products compared in this review

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Alter Eco Deep Dark Blackout

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Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate Bar

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Baker's Unsweetened - 100% Cacao

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Chocolove Extra Strong - 77% Cocoa Content

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Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate - 70% Cocoa Content

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CocoaVia

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CocoaVia - Cran-Raspberry (Mix)

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CocoaVia - Original (Mix)

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CocoaVia - Sweetened Dark Chocolate Mix

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CocoaVia - Unsweetened Dark Chocolate Mix

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Dagoba Organic Chocolate Cacao Powder

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Dove Dark Chocolate

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Endangered Species Chocolate Strong + Velvety Dark Chocolate - 88% Cocoa

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Equal Exchange Chocolates Organic Panama Extra Dark - 80% Cacao

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Futurebiotics Dark Chocolate Extract

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Ghirardelli Chocolate Premium Baking Chips - 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate

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Ghirardelli Chocolate Premium Baking Cocoa - 100% Cocoa

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Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao

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Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Baking Chips - 63% Cacao

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Hawaii Pharm Cacao

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Healthworks Cacao Nibs

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Healthworks Cacao Powder

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Hershey's Cocoa - 100% Cacao Natural Unsweetened

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Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark - 100% Cacao

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Lily's Dark Chocolate - Original - Stevia Sweetened

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Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark - 90% Cocoa

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Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Absolute Black - 100% Cocoa

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Moser Roth Edel Bitter 85% Cacao

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Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder

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Navitas Organics Organic Cacao Nibs

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Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate - 85% Cacao

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Scharffen Berger Unsweetened - 99% Cacao

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Solaray Cocoa

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Taza Chocolate Wicked Dark - 95% Dark

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Theo Sea Salt - 70% Dark Chocolate

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Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder Unsweetened

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Trader Joe's The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar - 85% Cacao

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Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Cacao Powder

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Trader Joe's Pound Plus - 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate

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Valrhona Poudre De Cacao Cocoa Powder - 100% Cacao

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Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs Organic

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Volupta Cacao Powder

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Summary

  • 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

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