Have you ever wondered how much dark chocolate should i eat a day? I have and was surprised to find out when I looked into the amount of dark chocolate that’s recommended. The benefits of dark chocolate are more than just a delicious treat. Chocolate, both dark and milk, have been known to have physical health benefits such as lower stress levels, improved cardiovascular health, and decreased BMI. In fact, the darker the chocolate the more antioxidants you get. And some scientists say that dark chocolate can make you smarter! But experts warn that there is a calorie count to be aware of when indulging in your favorite flavor of dark chocolate.
No introductions are needed for this highly treasured food that dates back to 2000 BC. At that time, the Maya from Central America, the first connoisseurs of chocolate, drank it as a bitter fermented beverage mixed with spices or wine. Today, the long rows of chocolate squares sitting neatly on your store shelves are the end result of many steps that begin as a cacao pod, larger than the size of your hand. Seeds (or beans) are extracted from the pod and fermented, dried, and roasted into what we recognize as cocoa beans. The shells of the bean are then separated from the meat, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor, and separated from the fatty portion, or cocoa butter. The liquor is further refined to produce the cocoa solids and chocolate that we eat. After removing the nibs, the cocoa bean is ground into cocoa powder that is used in baking or beverages.
Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.
Nutritional Value Dark Chocolate
100 grams of Dark Chocolate having 70-85% cacao content
- Calories: 604
- Carbohydrates: 46.36 g
- Dietary fibre: 11.00 g
- Sugar: 24.23 g
- Fat: 43.06 g
- Protein: 7.87 g
- Iron: 12.02 mg
- Magnesium: 230.00 mg
- Zinc: 3.34 mg
Nutritional Facts of Dark Chocolate
It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that can reduce inflammation, and protect cells from oxidative damage. Together, these can also prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and even help in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
To achieve these health benefits, a person needs to consume dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao content. The recommended dose of tis sweet treat should only be limited to 30-40 grams per day.
Eating more than that could mean that one may be consuming too many calories along with a greater intake of caffeine that can cause nausea, racing heartbeat and sleeplessness.
The Making of Dark Chocolate
Chocolate comes from the seeds inside the fruit of the Theobroma Cacao Tree. When harvested, the seeds of the fruit are scooped out and then fermented. They are then spread out to dry in the sun, followed by roasting and grinding them into a coarse powder.
The final product that you consider Chocolate is obtained by making this into liquor (further adding sugar or any sweeteners), grinding it again and pouring it into moulds to be solidified and sold in the market. Traditionally, the entire process is labour intensive, complex and very time-consuming.
The global chocolate market is massive and has reached a value of US$ 137.599 Billion in 2019. It is growing at a CAGR of 4.78% and is expected to reach US$182.090 billion by 2025.
How is Dark Chocolate different from other varieties of chocolates?
The process of producing this chocolate differs slightly from the rest. Though the ingredients used are the same as its other variants, that is, cocoa liquor, milk powder and sugar, the quantities may vary.
As in, Dark Chocolate generally comprises a higher percentage of Cocoa content that can range anywhere from 30 to 85%. This is the primary distinction between Dark, Milk and White chocolate making it a bittersweet concoction.
Is dark chocolate healthy?
When compared with other kinds of chocolate, dark chocolate stands tall. “Dark chocolate has lower added sugar and fat than milk or white chocolate,” says Peart, while noting it also boasts an abundance of beneficial antioxidants called flavonoids.
At their core, milk chocolate and dark chocolate have similar ingredients, including cocoa butter, sugar and cocoa solids. The two kinds of chocolate differ in their percentage of cocoa solids, however.
“Dark chocolate has between 50% and 90% cocoa solids,” says Peart. “And milk chocolate has between 10% and 50%.”
Unsurprisingly, the percentage of cocoa solids can affect the magnitude of dark chocolate’s benefits. “The higher percentage of cocoa solids, the more flavonoids and the lower sugar,” Peart explains. “If you’re doing 75% or 80% dark chocolate, there’ll be less added sugar than if you were at 50% dark chocolate.”
Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate Every Day
1. Dark Chocolate May Help Prevent Heart Disease and Lower the Risk of Stroke
One of the biggest benefits that researchers tout is the role dark chocolate may play in improving heart health. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in July 2020 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that eating chocolate once per week was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of blocked arteries. Another large study, published in May 2021 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from more than 188,000 veterans and concluded that regularly eating about 1 oz of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
Research suggests it’s the flavonoids in dark chocolate that maintain heart health. These chemicals help produce nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax and blood pressure to lower, per a review published in March 2017 in the American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology.
Because many of these studies are observational, the results could be skewed by people underreporting their chocolate intake. The studies are also limited in that they can’t directly establish cause and effect.
A meta-analysis published in July 2017 in Nutrients, however, acknowledged that margin for error and still found that chocolate was likely beneficial in reducing the risk of heart health, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
2. The Treat May Improve Cognition, Prevent Memory Loss, and Boost Your Mood
No, it’s not your imagination — studies show that consuming dark chocolate with high percentages of cacao, such as 70 percent, may benefit your brain. There is research indicating that chocolate stimulates neural activity in areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, which in turn decreases stress and improves your mood, says Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, a food scientist, registered dietitian, and owner of Dubost Food and Nutrition Solutions in Arlington, Virginia.
Several studies have begun to narrow down just how chocolate can impact the brain. Research presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting found that eating 48 grams (g) — a little more than 1.5 oz — of 70 percent cacao organic chocolate increased neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new synaptic connections, which could have positive effects on memory, cognition, and mood.
Furthermore, a study published in April 2018 in The FASEB Journal found that memory and learning could be enhanced by chocolate consumption, as the flavonoids — the powerful plant compounds in cacao beans — tend to accumulate in areas of the brain responsible for those functions. A study published in Depression & Anxiety in July 2019 even linked the consumption of dark chocolate to reduced risk of clinical depression.
While all of these findings can be exciting (especially for your sweet tooth), it’s worth noting that studies with larger sample sizes need to be conducted, and further research is necessary to investigate the mechanisms involved. So before you run out and stock up on chocolate bars, keep that in mind. Plus, most studies used much higher quantities of chocolate than the recommended daily dose (1.5 oz maximum).
3. Dark Chocolate Could Improve Blood Sugar Levels, and Reduce the Risk of Developing Diabetes
Eating chocolate every day doesn’t sound like the best way to prevent diabetes, but studies have shown healthy amounts of dark chocolate rich in cacao could actually improve how the body metabolizes glucose when eaten as part of a healthy diet. Insulin resistance causes high blood glucose (sugar) and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, per an article published in March 2019 by StatPearls.
In a study published in October 2017 in the Journal of Community and Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, the flavonoids in dark chocolate were found to reduce oxidative stress, which scientists think is the primary cause of insulin resistance. By improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin, resistance is reduced, and in turn the risk of diseases like diabetes decreases.
Another study, published in January 2017 in the journal Appetite, showed that participants who rarely consumed chocolate had almost twice the risk of developing diabetes five years down the road, compared with participants who indulged in dark chocolate at least once per week.
While researchers agree dark chocolate possesses many health benefits, further study is needed to determine if there is a cause-and-effect relationship between chocolate consumption and diabetes risk.
4. Chocolate Is Good for Your Gut and May Help With Weight Loss
Eating chocolate every day probably seems like the last way to lose weight, but research suggests dark chocolate may play a role in controlling appetite, which in turn could help with weight loss. Neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, wrote a book on the subject called Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, which describes how eating a bit of dark chocolate before or after meals triggers hormones that signal to the brain you’re full. Of course, eating more than the recommended amount per day can counteract any potential weight loss, and eating dark chocolate will not counteract the effects of an overall unhealthy diet.
Past research has found that during digestion, chocolate behaves like a prebiotic (not to be confused with probiotic), a type of fiber that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The more “good” microbes are in your system, the better your body is able to absorb nutrients as well as support a healthy metabolism, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
A study published in June 2021 in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that even milk chocolate could aid in weight loss by boosting metabolism and curbing appetite. However, the participant group was small (just 19 women), which means further research is needed to corroborate those claims. And it’s important to note that chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is high in calories so should be consumed in moderation — eating more won’t benefit you more.
5. It Fights Free Radicals and May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
Evidence that dark chocolate possesses properties that could help protect against certain types of cancer is limited but growing. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and disease, per previous research.
“When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” Dr. DuBost says.
According to the American Cancer Society, eating a diet rich in flavonoids, which chocolate is full of, can help prevent cell damage that is often the precursor to many cancers. Past research has found that of the many flavonoids in chocolate, one known as epicatechin is believed to be responsible for its cancer-fighting properties. Chocolate also tends to be a good source of magnesium, per USDA data, and a study published in January 2022 in the journal Cell found that the body’s immune cells can target abnormal or infected cells only in a magnesium-rich environment.
Still, most research is limited by using only animals or cell cultures, and the amount of chocolate needed to potentially yield preventative action against cancers is much higher than the daily recommended dose for humans.
6. Your Heart Loves It
What is it that makes dark chocolate desirable? The answer is plant phenols — cocoa phenols, to be exact.
Eating dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure if you have mild high blood pressure and you balance the extra calories by eating less of other things, say researchers in a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dark chocolate is also loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as healthy antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than fruits such as blueberries and Acai berries.
7. You Need Protection from Daily Radicals
The high levels of flavonoids — potent antioxidants — help protect cells and tissues from damage by free radicals. These radicals are unstable molecules that alter and weaken cells and often come from stress, poor diet, and the inevitable aging.
Dark chocolate also contains significant amounts of minerals magnesium and copper.
A 1.5-ounce bar provides 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium. Energy production, strong bones, relaxed muscles, and effective nerve transmission are all supported by Magnesium. That same bar also contains 34 percent RDA of copper. Copper helps the body create neurotransmitters and is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
8. You’re Happier With A Daily Dose of Cocoa
Chocolate and happiness have been coupled together as a “love food” since the Mesoamerican civilizations.
In those early times, chocolate was considered a luxury item and a valuable commodity. The elite made a drink of roasted cacao beans with cornmeal, vanilla, honey and chilies for those they loved.
Science has since found an actual chemical connection between chocolate and happiness. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical that’s also released in the brain during moments of emotional euphoria. It also contains anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter that makes you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
How much to eat?
Chocolate manufacturers do not have to report the flavanol content of their products. As a result, it is difficult to know how much dark chocolate a person would need to eat to maximize its health benefits.
The studies in this article generally used 20–30 g of dark chocolate per day. Dark chocolate with higher percentages of cacao solids typically contains less sugar but more fat. More cacao also means more flavanols, so it is best to choose dark chocolate that includes at least 70 percent cacao solids or more.
5 Ways Dark Chocolate can Help you Lose Weight
We give you five reasons to make dark chocolate your daily go-to dessert:
- Improves metabolism: Dark chocolate is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs, which help step up metabolism so you burn calories faster. A study performed at Queen Margaret University, UK, showed chocolate affects the way our body synthesises fatty acids and reduces the absorption of fats and carbohydrates.
- Prevents insulin spike: The healthy fats in dark chocolate slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore, prevent the dreaded insulin spike that transports sugar straight into your fat cells. High levels of insulin also stop your body’s fat burning system and make you hungry again.
- Curbs cravings: Researchers at The University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate eliminates cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods alike as it gives one a feeling a satiety. Proponents of the “chocolate-friendly” diet claim eating chocolate 20 minutes before and five minutes after lunch and dinner cuts your appetite by up to 50 percent. Experts say dieters who eat chocolate occasionally are also able to maintain weight loss as they don’t feel deprived.
- Encourages exercise: Chocolate has anti-inflammatory constituents, which when combined with its generous supply of magnesium, may lead to less pain. Exercise appears far more appealing when you feel good. If there is pain after a strenuous session at the gym, munch on an ounce of dark chocolate at night.
- Gives a happy high: Weight loss isn’t the only bonus of eating dark chocolate. Proponents say dark chocolate also gives a “happy high”. Research has found that regular consumers are less stressed, sleep better and have lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Dark chocolate is also loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals, which can damage our cells.
But before you reach for that chocolate in your fridge, remember that a 100-gram bar contains a whopping 546 calories. Experts recommend no more than an ounce – 28 grams – of dark chocolate a day!