Dark Chocolate: Are there benefits?


by Becca Egan, BS, NASM-CPT

Let’s talk about dark chocolate. There have been articles going around for years stating dark chocolate is great for your health – specifically your heart. But do we know why? Here are the dark chocolate facts.

When we're talking about dark chocolate that has benefits we're referring to chocolate that is 70% cocoa or more. Dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa is higher in fiber compared to milk or semisweet chocolate and has minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, as well as antioxidants.

You may have noticed a percentage on your package of dark chocolate. That number refers to the amount of cocoa solids in the chocolate.

85-100%: Unsweetened chocolate. This is the best dark chocolate percentage to consume even though most find it hard to eat since it has such a bitter taste. Unsweetened chocolate is used mostly for baked goods (also known as baking or bakers chocolate) where it adds an intense chocolate flavor to the dish it’s put in.

65-80%: Bittersweet chocolate. Although this type of chocolate is required by the FDA to only have 35% cocoa beans to be categorized as bittersweet, it usually has a dark chocolate cocoa percentage anywhere from a 65-80%. This type of chocolate is also often used for baking but is considered extremely tolerable to eat alone. The recommended minimum amount of cocoa beans to be found in healthy dark chocolate is 70%, so this is a good form of chocolate to snack on.

35-60%: Semisweet chocolate. You may have seen this on a package of chocolate chips. Like the bittersweet chocolate, this category only has to have a minimum of 35% cocoa beans to be considered semisweet. The difference between the two categories is the average amount of cocoa beans and sugar in this form of chocolate. Semisweet is usually made of around 40-60% cocoa beans and contains more sugar than bittersweet chocolate, making it less healthy to consume but sweeter (and easier for most) to eat.

10-20%: Milk chocolate. The most popular form of chocolate, and the one with the least amount of nutritional benefits. The FDA requires this “form” of chocolate to have a minimum of 10% cocoa, the rest is made up of sugars and other ingredients (like fillings, caramels, creams, etc).

Here are some fun and interesting facts on everyone’s favorite sweet. The good, bad, random, and delicious.

  • White Chocolate isn't technically Chocolate, as it contains no cocoa solids or cocoa liquor.
  • It takes approximately 400 cacao beans to make one pound (450 gram) of chocolate.
  • The inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie sold the idea to Nestle Toll House in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate.
  • Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate.
  • Chocolate tycoon, Milton Hershey, canceled his reservations for the Titanic due to last minute business matters. Thank goodness!
  • A lethal dose of chocolate for a human being is about 22 lbs., or 40 Hershey bars.
  • Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt around 93° F, just below human body temperature. That's why chocolate melts in your mouth.