What are the health benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa?Cocoa-based products contain flavanols, which are associated with modest, potential benefits regarding blood flow, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, exercise, skin wrinkles, and blood sugar control. Memory and cognitive benefits appear to be very limited (see What It Does).
How much cocoa or dark chocolate do I need?This depends on two things: The amounts of cocoa flavanols used in various clinical studies (summarized below), and the actual amounts of flavanols that we found in a serving of each product, which is provided in the 2nd column in the Results Table.
- Cardiovascular health: About 200 to 900 mg per day
- Blood sugar/insulin improvement: About 200 mg to 600 mg per day
- Memory/cognitive function: About 500 to 900 mg per day
- Skin elasticity/wrinkles: 320 mg per day
Which dark chocolate and cocoa products are best?Be careful! Several cocoa powders, cacao nibs, and some dark chocolates failed to pass our review due to contamination with high levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal (see What CL Found). Furthermore, levels of potentially beneficial cocoa flavanols ranged from just 1 mg to 374 mg in cocoa powders and mixes, 2 mg to 351 mg in dark chocolates, and 2 mg to 993 mg in supplements. Products also vary widely in calories per serving.
Among products that minimize heavy metal exposure, maximize flavanol content, and offer superior value without sacrificing flavor, we selected our Top Picks among supplements, cocoas and mixes, dark chocolates and chips, and cacao nibs.