- 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, memory/cognition, skin wrinkles, and blood sugar control (see What It Does).
- Which dark chocolate and cocoa are 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 cocoa or dark chocolate 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:
- 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
- Dark chocolate and cocoa safety and side effects: 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).