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Healthiest Chocolate Fix

Which has the highest levels of beneficial phytonutrients: baking chocolate, chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate?

October 26, 2010 |
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The phytonutrients in soy responsible for lowering cancer risk are called isoflavones, a type of flavanoid. There are also flavanoids in, chocolate but where are they found the most? According to a new study this year, in terms of phytonutrient content, is the healthiest chocolate fix baking chocolate, chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate chips?
Here’s the graph… Which one takes the cake? … cocoa powder, is the best way to get your chocolate fix. You know how dark chocolate is like 70% cocoa solids? Well cocoa powder is like 90+% cocoa solids—that’s basically all it is!
Number 2, is the baking chocolate. Which is number 3, though? the semi-sweet chips are actually number 3, with the dark chocolate #4. Any guess on last place? They’re both pretty useless, but the hint, is the “genuine chocolate flavor.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on cocoa. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on cocoa. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yummy/ yummy

    Is it more healthful to mix cocoa powder with milk or milk alternative or with water when making a chocolate drink? I am a chocoholic but I want to consume it the most beneficial way.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Definitely not with dairy! Dairy is all harm no good. A non dairy substitute would be best. Note that cacao powder isnt sweet at all

    • http://www.facebook.com/emilierv Émilie René-Véronneau

      If I want a drink I’ll mix cocoa powder with rice milk which is pretty widely available but the best I’ve tried so far is with millet milk (Isolabio makes it but it’s more difficult to find). It doesn’t have any added sugar but tastes quite sweet. I mix cocoa powder with a smushed banana and enjoy that as a snack fairly often. You can also make fake nutella by mixing cocoa with hazelnut butter and adding a sugar replacement like stevia. (As you can tell, I’m a chocoholic too) ;-)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chelsea/ Chelsea

    yummy: The main concern in the chocolate is the saturated fat and the sugar. If you consume cocoa powder, you will receive all the benefits without the saturated fat or sugar. The recipes and ideas are endless, but I doubt that cocoa powder and water would be a very palatable beverage. A milk alternative with added cocoa is an excellent idea. Try this recipe! http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/healthy-chocolate-milkshakes/

    Here’s a video on sweeteners as well: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/sweeteners/

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/barbarah/ BarbaraH

      Hey, I beg to differ about the cocoa and water. I had something in a children’s museum once that was just cocoa, water, and cinnamon. They were demonstrating something like the original Mayan’s chocolatl. It was very good. I still make it that way sometimes.

      • http://www.facebook.com/emilierv Émilie René-Véronneau

        I’ve lived with mayan chocolate makers for a few days and they also made it with water. Although I think they used the whole cocoa been and not just powder.

      • Valeria Spirovski

        I make mine with mostly water but heaps and heaps of dutch cocoa powder – 4 heaped teaspoons. I also add sugar and cinnamon to mine

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

    Surprise, surprise, milk fails again.

    Love chocolate.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/cwhiteside/ CWhiteside

    Cocoa powder with almond milk is delicious! I like to make a smoothie with the cocoa powder, almond milk, ground flax seeds, a little vanilla, and coconut oil. You can also change it up by adding a banana and/or peanut butter! Very good, filling and healthy! You don’t need to sweeten it – the almond milk has a some sugar in it.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      I would avoid the coconut oil, it is 91% saturated fat and provides empty fat calories without nutrition.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/is-coconut-oil-good-for-you/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/cwhiteside/ CWhiteside

        Thanks for your comment. I’ve seen Dr. Greger’s video on coconut oil. There are conflicting opinions out there… I think an occasional tablespoon or so is not going to be life-threatening. It adds a nice flavor and texture. I am not afraid of some healthy saturated fat in moderation as long as you compensate for the fat and calories in your daily intake.

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          There are many opinions out there indeed on coconut oil. It has become over hyped by the media with little scientific backing, as has olive oil. Do not be fooled. A tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat, and since we have no dietary need for saturated fat and our intake should stay as close as possible to zero, the intake of this oil can only be considered harmful. The more saturated fat you take, the more you increase your risk for developing heart disease, there is no “healthy” saturated fat.

          I could see the inclusion of this oil on rare occasions if one is already eating a low fat whole foods vegan diet, but other than that, Americans do not need anymore saturated fat in their diet.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/andy/ Andy

    This is how I get my chocolate fix:

    http://happyherbivore.com/recipe/vegan-blackbean-brownies/

    I passed them off as regular brownies to our boy scout troop. After they scarfed them up, I asked what they thought the ingredients were.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Funny, i made those yesterday! They are very good

    • Valnaples

      Thank you for the link to this recipe…have been wanting to try the black bean brownies for a while now…will bring to work also to see if folks will eat them (not telling them about the beans though)…hee hee!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post The Best Foods: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge!

  • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

    What about raw cacao beans?
    You’ve mentioned that cocoa powder is nutritious, having had the fat removed, so would that mean that whole, unprocessed cacao beans would be a case where the whole food is actually bad for you and the processed, isolated food is good? Just wondering — should I stop using raw cacao beans? raw cacao nibs? raw cacao powder?

  • Valnaples

    In Dr. Greger’s video, it shows 70% as the dark chocolate…what about 90% dark chocolate? That’s what I’ve been eating when I want a chocolate treat…the cocoa powder shown is described as having 90% cacao solids…is the same true for a 90% dark chocolate bar? (Lindt is my usual go-to but I also love a Polish brand called Wawel which I believe is pronounced “Vavel”) thanks so much!  I ♥ Dr. Greger and his work!

    • Jen Havard

      I wondered same thing…

  • Luis Fernando

    Hello Dr. Greger! 

    Thank you so much for all the incredibly informative and interesting videos you make for us. 
    I have stopped consuming whey protein after workouts. I’d like to know if you have a suggestion to replace the protein shake. Also, can my wife and I have too much soy protein isolate? We are currently blending 1/4 cup of raw oats, half banana, vanilla soymilk, 1/2 tbsp of sugar free peanut butter and 20 grm of soy protein isolate with ice and water. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonas.aleksandras Jonas Kilikevicius

    Raw cacao is the healthiest form of chocolate I hope you can post something on raw chocolate and not processed. I know youre a busy guy lol keep up the good work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonas.aleksandras Jonas Kilikevicius

    http://www.creativehealthinstitute.com/blog/raw-cacao-tops-the-table-of-orac-values-for-common-foods/ List of foods with the highest ORAC. There are many lists out there that also confirm this.

    • Debraapples

      Thanks for this. Odd that it’s got milk choc so high up the list after we’ve learnt the goodies in milk choc are not bioavaialbe. I guess the list doesn’t take that into account, but then it is the only food on list that is mixed with anything else! :O)

  • lovestobevegan

    Use this guilt-free, nutritious, and delicious dessert to incorporate the bean with the most antioxidants (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-bean-2/)
    and the healthiest chocolate fix into your diet.

    Black Bean Brownies

    -2 cups cooked black beans
    -1 large very ripe banana, mashed
    -½ tbsp vanilla extract
    -1/3 cup cacoa powder
    -pinch cayenne pepper
    -pinch sea salt

    Mash beans to desired consistency. Mash banana in a separate bowl and add to beans. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in cacoa powder, cayenne pepper, and sea salt until thoroughly mixed. Spread mixture in a glass baking dish and cut into squares. No baking necessary.

    • Liz

      sounds good!

  • lovestobevegan

    I created this recipe a few years back and it satisfies my daily chocolate fix. So delicious yet so simple.

    Happiness By Chocolate
    – ½ banana, mashed
    – 2 ½ tablespoons cacoa powder
    • Simply mix two ingredients together and enjoy. Makes one serving.
    • Depending on the consistency you prefer, vary the ratio of banana to chocolate. For a more pudding-like consistency use a whole banana and use less banana if you would rather a fudgier texture. The banana’s ripeness will
    also dictate the consistency.

  • seaporia

    What about raw chocolate, such as cacao nibs? Usually, the rule is that the less processed a food is, the better it is for you. Since raw cacao is much less processed than cocoa powder, does it have more beneficial properties?

    • Chris Hartley

      Cocoa beans have a lot of fat – the cocoa butter. When you separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids, you get the good bit without the fat. This seems to be one case where processing improves the result.
      see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_powder

  • L J Hyde

    I would like to know to what extent the flavanols in cocoa powder are destroyed by adding hot water during the making of a hot cocoa beverage. I assume it would be better to consume without adding any heat, but I really like preparing it in the same way as matcha – this method works really well. Thanks,

    • Toxins

      There may be some loss but just making an assumption, it doesn’t make a difference in the big picture. There may be some loss but not complete loss, and we should eat these types of foods in whichever way entices us to eat them the most.

  • Julie

    Cocoa may be the best but people don’t usually eat plain cocoa!