Everyone knows that when it comes to indulging your sweet tooth, dark chocolate is the best option. But is all dark chocolate created equal?
Q. How do you know the dark chocolate you have is really good for you? Are there levels to how good it is or isn’t? And how much should you eat at one time?
A. Yes, the darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of health-promoting antioxidants (specifically, flavonoids) and phytonutrients it contains. Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, reduce clotting, and benefit overall heart health.
A number of factors affect the antioxidant content, including how the chocolate is processed, but the most user-friendly way to select healthful chocolate is to simply choose one with a high percentage of cacao. I advise people to choose a bar that is at least 70% cacao if you’re looking to cash in on chocolate’s beneficial health properties. This label means that the chocolate bar is 70% cocoa by weight; the remaining 30% is mostly sugar and sometimes milk. (Milk chocolate has an even lower cocoa content — as low as 10% cacao — because it contains more sugar and milk than dark chocolate.) By the way, if the package doesn’t list the percent cacao on the label, you can assume it’s not high enough to meet my recommendation.
In terms of the amount, portion control is key. Because chocolate is calorie-dense, I advise people to limit their daily intake to 1 ounce. That equates to about 150 calories, give or take. A 1-ounce portion is about the size of a credit card or standard business card if you’re talking about a thin chocolate bar, like Lindt. If the bar is thicker, adjust accordingly.