Is chocolate good for you?

Dark chocolate often receives attention from a health standpoint because it contains flavonoids – antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects which can help lower blood pressure. This is good news for chocolate lovers everywhere but that doesn’t mean you can (or should) consume excessive amounts.

There are so many types of chocolate available in the market today – 60%, 70%, 85%, 90% cocoa, chocolate flavoured with orange, hot peppers and even wasabi. Which one should you choose?

Generally, the higher the cocoa content the better it is for you (at least 60-70%). This is because it contains more cocoa which has the flavonoids. For those who are really hard core – cocoa nibs contain the highest amount of cocoa (it’s basically raw cocoa beans that have been crushed before other ingredients are added (sugar, milk, etc.) to make bar chocolate.

One study that was done indicated that eating small amounts of cocoa (6.3 g/day) led to a modest reduction in blood pressure which could help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

There is no established amount of chocolate to take each day to help with blood pressure. However, the studies that were done used anywhere from 3.5 grams to 105 grams per day of cocoa products with consistent results in lowering blood pressure.

The Bottom Line:

Chocolate, like wine, is something that you can enjoy in small amounts. So take a small piece of dark chocolate and enjoy it without the guilt. For the most health benefits, choose chocolate that’s has 60% cocoa or higher. Most people recommend a small square (0.5 oz or 15 g) per day.

For more information about the research behind this recommendation, check out the Cochrane review article on the effect of cocoa on blood pressure.