Chocolate Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Chocolate annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Chocolate is a sweet confection made from cocoa beans. Its nutritional data (fat, calories, sugar, etc.) depends on the type you choose. While chocolate may provide some benefits, moderation is key to keeping this sweet treat on the healthier side.

Chocolate Nutrition Facts 

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a 1.4-ounce bar (41g) of sweet or dark chocolate:

  • Calories: 216
  • Fat: 13.6g
  • Sodium: 8.2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 24.7g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Sugars: 20g
  • Protein: 1.8g

Carbs

Most varieties of chocolate are high in sugar, therefore also being high in carbohydrates. A single serving of standard chocolate, sweet or dark, contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of which are sugar. Roughly 2 to 3 grams are in the form of fiber.

While chocolate, in general, has a medium glycemic index (GI) rating, if it's made with sugar substitutes, the GI rating might be lower. Chocolate that contains certain spices (such as cinnamon or coriander) may have a lower GI rating as well.

Fats

Chocolate is a significant source of fat, providing nearly 14 grams per serving. Most of this fat is saturated fat, which is the type that can raise "bad" cholesterol levels. There are small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat in chocolate, as well.

Protein

Chocolate provides some protein—about 2 grams per serving. Though it's not uncommon to see chocolate as an ingredient in high-protein dietary supplements such as bars, shakes, and powders, it is added as a flavoring versus being a major contributor to the product's protein content.

Vitamins and Minerals

Chocolate is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals. That said, you will get small amounts of some nutrients, including vitamin B12, copper, manganese, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Calories

A typical chocolate bar provides a few hundred calories. As you might expect, the total calories will depend on what else is in the treat. If it contains nuts, for example, its calorie count can be even higher.

The calories in chocolate are often referred to as empty calories, or foods that provide energy primarily in the form of added sugar and unhealthy fats. USDA guidelines recommend limiting sugar to 10% of your daily calories, keeping saturated fat below this level as well.

Health Benefits

Despite some of chocolate's nutritional shortcomings, adding this food to your diet (in moderation) may provide some health benefits.

Improves Heart Health

Cocoa is rich in flavanols, a category of flavonoids that, as a polyphenol, contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavanols specifically are a naturally-occurring compound found in plants that have been shown to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.

It should be noted that, as cocoa beans are processed, health benefits are minimized. For this reason, choosing minimally processed chocolate helps promote the possible benefits of flavonoids. Usually, dark chocolate is the best choice.

Boosts Mood

The flavanols and methylxanthines in cocoa and chocolate have been known to help enhance mood. In fact, individuals eating chocolate have been found to have a 57% lower risk of depressive symptoms than those who avoid this sweet entirely.

Want to get the most out of your chocolate? The ability of this food to boost positive mood is increased even more when you enjoy this treat mindfully (as opposed to non-mindful eating, or eating on 'auto-pilot'). So, feel free to savor every bite.

Increases Brain Power

One study involved 32 subjects who were sleep-deprived, some of whom were given chocolate and the other acting as a control. The group that ate chocolate had better working memories, potentially by counteracting the physiological effects of sleep deprivation.

May Decrease Cholesterol

Certain types of chocolate may help decrease cholesterol. After consuming 30 grams of dark chocolate for 28 days, subjects assigned to a group in which the chocolate contained lycopene had lower total cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol levels. They also had a decrease in serum triglycerides.

May Aid in Weight Loss

Scientists have also looked for evidence of chocolate as a weight-loss tool, with some finding positive results. For example, one study found a correlation between eating dark chocolate and feelings of fullness. The more full you feel, the less you might eat overall, creating a calorie deficit.

In another study, researchers observed that chocolate eaters had a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-chocolate eaters. It appears that one of the keys to chocolate contributing to weight loss is associating this food with feelings of celebration versus feelings of guilt.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age. 

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

Allergies

True allergies to cocoa are rare according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). However, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to chocolate because of ingredients, such as tree nuts or dairy, that are used to process it.

Oils used to make chocolate products may also produce allergic reactions. The AAAAI further notes that "hidden allergens such as insect parts have also been found to be present in chocolate."

See a healthcare provider if you suspect that you may be allergic to chocolate or any of its ingredients.

Adverse Effects

Even though chocolate might provide some health benefits, it is still a significant source of saturated fat and sugar. Too much saturated fat can lead to heart disease and obesity-related diseases. Consuming too much added sugar has the same effect.

Some people find that eating chocolate triggers migraine pain or aggravates their acid reflux. To help avoid these adverse issues, choose a chocolate that is 70% cacao or higher and enjoy it more as a treat than a regular part of your eating plan.

Varieties

There are a variety of options when it comes to chocolate. Here are a few popular chocolate treats and their nutrition information as provided by the USDA:

  • A Lindt Milk Chocolate Truffle Ball (12 grams) provides roughly 77 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of sugar.
  • One packet of M&Ms Chocolate Candy (100 grams) provides 492 calories, 21 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 71 grams of carbohydrates, and 64 grams of sugar.
  • One 7.3-ounce envelope of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate (21 grams) provides 90 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 16 grams of carbohydrates, and 11 grams of sugar.
  • One Hershey's Bliss Dark Chocolate bar (43 grams) provides 210 calories, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of sugar.
  • A 40-gram portion of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises provides 210 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates, and 19 grams of sugar.

When It's Best

The cocoa beans from which chocolate are derived are actually seeds of a pod-like fruit that grows on the cacao tree in tropical areas near the Equator. They can be harvested any time, but the two main periods are October to February and May to August.

Since making chocolate involves processing these cocoa beans, it is available all year long in almost any grocery or retail store. Here, you can purchase chocolate that has been made into candies, "couverture" chocolate you can melt to dip fruit into, powdered chocolate for beverages, and more.

Storage and Food Safety

Buy chocolate in small quantities because it tastes best when it is fresh out of the package. Store it in a dark place at room temperature. Do not refrigerate chocolate as it can cause discoloration and may even pick up the flavors of other items in your fridge. 

Chocolate can be frozen, although some connoisseurs recommend against it. If you freeze your chocolate, make sure it is tightly wrapped before putting it in the freezer. Once you're ready to eat it, thaw it at room temperature.

If you find it difficult to control your chocolate consumption, store it hidden away in a cupboard or on a high shelf so you don't see it all the time. Then take just a single serving when you are in the mood for something sweet.

How to Prepare

Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. So, if you're trying to clean up your eating habits to slim down, there's no need to toss out your favorite treats. Instead, you can learn to manage your "chocolate habit" so that you can still achieve your health and fitness goals.

To keep your calorie balance in control, eat a portion-controlled amount. Chocolate-covered fruit or a small cup of skim hot chocolate are lower-calorie ways to satisfy your cravings. And if you can, choose dark chocolate. It has a richer taste than milk chocolate and may satisfy your craving with a smaller serving.

Here are a few low-calorie ways to enjoy chocolate:

  • Eat a small piece after dinner for some satisfying sweetness. A small piece of dark chocolate (7.6 grams) is around 40 calories.
  • Make your own hot cocoa. Dissolve 1.5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips in a quarter cup of extra hot water. Add a half cup of fat-free milk and another quarter cup water, then microwave until hot. Stir in a no-calorie sweetener and you've got a 99-calorie cup of rich chocolatey deliciousness.
  • Toss some chocolate protein powder into a low-cal smoothie or shake. At least you're getting some protein when you prepare your chocolate in this way.
  • Use mini semi-sweet chocolate chips as an oatmeal add-in. They'll get all melty and amazing! 
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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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