Dark Chocolate Benefits: 9 Ways It May Help (Including Weight Loss, Skin, And Heart Health)

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
Written by Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients and is an excellent source of antioxidants. Of course, it tastes sinfully sweet, but indulging in it doesn’t have to make you feel guilty anymore!

Studies state that a moderate intake of dark chocolate may help with weight loss. It may reduce the digestion and absorption of fats and increase satiety (1).

Dark chocolate may also have benefits for the skin and heart, among others. It is a source of powerful antioxidants and other important nutrients. It contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. It may contain traces of butter too – though unlikely in most cases.

In this post, we will explore in detail what research tells us about dark chocolate. We will also look at the possible side effects that eating too much dark chocolate may cause.

How Does Dark Chocolate Benefit You?

The cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate contribute to most of its benefits. These flavanols have antioxidant effects that promote heart health, help fight cancer, and boost brain function. Dark chocolate may also aid weight loss.

1. May Aid Weight Loss

Moderate intake of dark chocolate may increase satiety and may lead to weight loss.

Research suggests that dark chocolate may have a role to play in weight loss. It may decrease the expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis. This reduces the digestion and absorption of fats and carbs, thereby increasing satiety (1).

Consumption of dark chocolate could also be useful in the reduction of weight circumference in normal weight obese women (a condition that involves excess body fat with a normal body mass index) (2).

However, moderation is key. Just 100 grams of dark chocolate contains about 600 calories (3). Hence, do not have more than one cube of dark chocolate in a day.

2. May Protect Your Skin

The flavanols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage.

Studies show that dietary flavanols from cocoa offer photoprotection and improve dermal blood circulation (4).

This effect can be attributed to the antioxidants (especially flavanols) in dark chocolate (4).

3. May Boost Heart Health

Dark chocolate antioxidants may cut heart disease risk by preventing oxidation, lowering bad cholesterol levels, and elevating good cholesterol levels.

Habitual chocolate intake can lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Studies have suggested that dark chocolate may have more benefits than milk chocolate. One major reason for this effect could be the flavonoids in dark chocolate (5).

Some sources claim that dark chocolate may promote the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and enhances blood flow. However, we need more research to establish this.

There is no evidence that those concerned with cardiovascular health must avoid dark chocolate (or chocolate, in general) (5).

Studies show that eating dark chocolate more than five times a week was associated with a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease (6).

We know that dark chocolate is made of cocoa. As per a Japanese study, the polyphenols in cocoa powder may lower LDL (the bad cholesterol), elevate HDL (the good cholesterol), and suppress oxidized LDL (7).

It is not LDL but oxidized LDL that is a problem. The antioxidants in cocoa may prevent the LDL from getting oxidized (8).

4. May Promote Brain Function

The flavonols in dark chocolate may elevate mood and improve cognitive health in the elderly.

In a study conducted on five healthy subjects, intake of dark chocolate (with 70% cocoa content) was found to improve behavioral and brain health (9). Further research is in progress, however, to elaborate on these mechanisms.

In a second study conducted by the same team, dark chocolate was found to improve neural signaling and sensory perception (10).

Regular intake of cocoa flavanols may also be effective in improving cognitive health in the elderly with mild mental impairment (11).

Dark chocolate also promotes mood and may alleviate emotional stress. However, we need further research to understand the mechanisms involved (12).

Dark chocolate also contains a compound called epicatechin, which was found to reduce brain damage in the eventuality of a stroke (13). But not all dark chocolate is created equal. Hence, ensure you go through the list of ingredients.

5. Might Aid Cancer Prevention

Rat studies highlight a possible link between dark chocolate intake and colon cancer prevention (14). A diet including dark chocolate was found to reduce cell proliferation and inflammation.

Daily intake of small amounts of flavanols from dark chocolate and other sources may be a natural approach to potentially prevent colon cancer. However, we need more research in this regard (15).

According to the American Cancer Society, the flavanols in cocoa beans (dark chocolate) may help reduce damage to cells. But as per the report, the results don’t state if the anticancer effects could be attributed to dark chocolate, or if it’s the flavanols alone, which could be found in other foods as well (16).

Dark chocolate cocoa also contains high concentrations of catechins and procyanidins that may have a beneficial effect against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which both are risk factors for cancer (17).

6. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Consuming dark chocolate may lower blood sugar levels, as per some studies.

It is possible that the cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate can directly influence insulin resistance and reduce diabetes risk. They may induce the generation of pancreatic beta-cells and stimulate insulin secretion, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. More studies need to be performed to further analyze the anti-diabetic effects of dark chocolate (18).

However, reports hint that dark chocolate may have some adverse effects (although only rarely) on people who have diabetes. But this is yet to be validated by strong research.

7. May Enhance Vision

In a study, dark chocolate exhibited a better ability to improve visual acuity than its white counterpart. This effect was only temporary (for about two hours), however. The long-term effects of dark chocolate on vision health need further research (19).

8. May Promote Gut Health

The good microbes in the gut, namely Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, ferment dark chocolate and produce anti-inflammatory compounds (20).

In another study, the consumption of foods rich in cocoa flavanols could significantly improve the growth of beneficial gut bacteria (21). Although further research is required, this is a promising finding.

9. May Improve Hair Health

Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa. This cocoa contains proanthocyanidins, compounds that were known to promote hair growth in animal studies (22).

In mice, proanthocyanidins were found to induce the anagen phase of hair growth (23). Anagen is the active growth phase of hair follicles where the hair root divides rapidly, adding to the hair shaft.

More research is warranted to understand if dark chocolate can actually have any impact on hair health.

We have seen some of the nutrients that make dark chocolate beneficial to human health. In the following section, we will further explore its nutritional profile.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Dark Chocolate?

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories605(2533 kJ)30%
From Carbohydrate185(775 kJ)
From Fat388(1624 kJ)
From Protein31.5(132 kJ)
From Alcohol~(0.0 kJ)
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate46.3 g15%
Dietary Fiber11.0 g44%
Sugars24.2 g
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat43.1 g66%
Saturated Fat24.7 g124%
Monounsaturated Fat12.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.3 g
Total trans fatty acids0.0 g
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids0.0 g
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids0.0 g
Total Omega-3 fatty acids34.3 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids1230 mg
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein7.9 g16%
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A39.4 IU1%
Vitamin C~~
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)~~
Vitamin K7.4 mcg9%
Thiamin0.0 mg2%
Riboflavin0.1 mg5%
Niacin1.1 mg5%
Vitamin B60.0 mg2%
Vitamin B120.3 mcg5%
Pantothenic Acid0.4 mg4%
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium73.7 mg7%
Iron12.0 mg67%
Magnesium230 mg58%
Phosphorus311 mg31%
Potassium722 mg21%
Sodium20.2 mg1%
Zinc3.3 mg22%
Copper1.8 mg89%
Manganese2.0 mg98%
Selenium6.9 mcg10%

*Values sourced from USDA, Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids

A bar of dark chocolate (100 grams) with 70-80% cocoa content contains about 600 calories. That is a lot, but obviously, you aren’t going to consume 100 grams of dark chocolate every day (we don’t recommend you do that either).

One ounce of dark chocolate (28 grams) contains about 3 grams of fiber, 27% DV of manganese, 25% DV of copper, 19% DV of iron, and 16% DV of magnesium.

The much-discussed goodness of dark chocolate comes from its cocoa content. Cocoa is replete with plant chemicals (called flavanols) that may protect the heart. It contains two to three times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than its milk cousin.

The other important nutrients in dark chocolate include iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus – all of which contribute to your overall health (3).

As we discussed, not all dark chocolate is created equal. The market is flooded with different brands. How do you pick the best of the lot?

How To Choose The Healthiest Dark Chocolate

Not every dark chocolate is created equal. There are a few things to keep in mind before you go ahead and pick your bar of dark chocolate.

Though beneficial, dark chocolate can cause certain undesirable effects.

What Are The Side Effects Of Dark Chocolate?

  • Anxiety

Owing to the caffeine in dark chocolate (and chocolate, in general), excess intake can lead to anxiety issues (24). Hence, consume it in moderation.

  • Heart Arrhythmia

Dark chocolate does have great benefits for the heart. But the caffeine it contains may cause irregular heartbeat in susceptible individuals. Some research shows a link between chocolate, caffeine, and arrhythmia (25). Hence, moderation is key.

  • Diabetes

Cocoa might interfere with blood sugar control in diabetes patients (26). More research is ongoing in this regard. Please check with your doctor if you can have dark chocolate if you have diabetes.

  • Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

For pregnant and breastfeeding women, dark chocolate (and other chocolate, in general) is safe in normal amounts. Don’t go overboard (due to its caffeine content) (27). Consume in moderation.

  • Other Possible Issues With Caffeine

The caffeine in dark chocolate may also aggravate the following conditions (individuals with these conditions must consume dark chocolate in moderation):

  • Diarrhea
  • Glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Osteoporosis

However, there is less information if dark chocolate by itself may cause any of these issues. Please consult your doctor in case you have any of the health conditions.


Dark chocolate is a healthful delicacy. It contains important antioxidants that promote human health. But it also comes with too many calories. Hence, moderation is key. Ensure you have not more than an ounce (or even half) in a day to enjoy its benefits without any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is dark chocolate different from milk chocolate?

While dark chocolate contains the most cocoa content, milk chocolate is primarily made of milk solids. Dark chocolate also tastes slightly bitter, as opposed to its cousin that tastes milky.

Does dark chocolate contain caffeine?

Yes. In fact, it contains more caffeine than regular milk chocolate. This is because of the high cocoa content in dark chocolate.

How much dark chocolate can you eat in a day?

You may want to stick to 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate per day. This can translate to 1 to 2 chocolate ‘squares’ in a dark chocolate bar.

Can you eat dark chocolate at night?

Yes, you can eat dark chocolate at night. There are no contraindications.

Is chocolate bad for the kidneys?

Chocolate usually contains potassium. If you have an advanced stage of kidney disease, check with your doctor before consuming chocolate as potassium could stress the kidneys. Otherwise, chocolate is not bad for the kidneys.

Does dark chocolate cause pimples/acne?

There is no research stating that chocolate may cause acne or pimples. A high-sugar or a high-fat diet may increase sebum production and the chances of acne. If you have acne, you may want to limit your intake of chocolate, among other foods that are high in sugar or fat.

Can dark chocolate cause weight gain?

If consumed in excess, it may add to your weight. Dark chocolate is high in calories. We suggest you stick to an ounce or less of dark chocolate a day.

Is dark chocolate good for babies?

Usually, yes, but in moderation. However, your baby may not like the bitter taste of dark chocolate.


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Ravi Teja Tadimalla is an editor and a published author. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the digital media field for over six years. He has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University. He considers himself a sculptor born to chip away at content and reveal its dormant splendor. He started his career as a research writer, primarily focusing on health and wellness, and has over 250 articles to his credit. Ravi believes in the great possibilities of abundant health with natural foods and organic supplements. Reading and theater are his other interests.