ChocoLOT or ChocoLITTLE

The recent interest in chocolate as a ‘superfood’ has sparked extensive research to separate facts from fiction. In its purest form research has shown cocoa-drinking Central Americans to have significantly low blood pressure,(1) that said, the chocolate we Westerners are more commonly exposed to and consume is highly processed and sweetened. The raw product is a good source of iron, copper, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc, while also rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Some research also shows that cocoa and dark chocolate had a higher antioxidant activity than other fruits they tested, like blueberries and the increasingly popular Acai.(2) Chocolate also has an excellent fatty acid profile.

With the market now more health conscious than ever, are there any truths to health claims associated with chocolate, more specifically dark chocolate? Research suggests…

  • cocoa products may help reduce blood pressure(1)
  • chocolate consumption reduces occurrence of stroke(3)                                       
  • a cocoa rich diet can protect against potential cancers(4)
  • reduction in stress hormones, but may not reduce effects on stress(5)
  • increased HDL and lowered total LDL(6)

So, what’s the bottom line?

A range of health benefits from the consumption of cocoa products and compounds found in chocolate, have been investigated with some promising results. However, the reality is that when processed and combined with sugar and fat, over consumption can lead to increase high calorie intake and unwanted weight gain.(7) Therefore, its sparing consumption as part of a well-balanced healthy diet is advised, and when doing so try choosing a 70-85% cocoa content. 

As a restaurant/food outlet owner, why not…

  • use the highest quality dark chocolate in your cooking, and steer away from the cheaper highly processed sugar and fat filled counterparts.
  • perhaps reduce the use of high sugar chocolate sauces and syrups that are manufactured by further tainting the purity of the cocoa seed.
  • try using a vegan chocolate to appeal to those following a plant based diet.
  • avail of healthpro dietitian-led professional menu analysis services

healthpro Menu Mentoring® programme, led by our team of nutrition and dietetic experts, has been assisting Irish food businesses with menu labelling since 2009. Our team has helped a diverse range of food providers including restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, fast food and retail outlets to be market leaders by providing their customers confidence and transparency with accurate nutritional information.



  1. Karin Ried, Thomas R Sullivan, Peter Fakler, Oliver R Frank, Nigel P Stocks. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. The Cochrane Library, 2012
  2. Stephen J. Crozier, Amy G. Preston, Jeffrey W. Hurst, Mark J. Payne, Julie Mann, Larry Hainly, Debra L. Miller. Cocao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal, 2011 5:1, 5-10.
  3. Jia-Yia Dong, Hiroyasu Iso, Kazumasa Yamagishi, Norie Sawada, Shoichiro Tsugane. Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke among men and women: A large population-based, prospective cohort study. Atherosclerosis, 2017 4:260, 8-12
  4. Gertraud Maskarinec. Cancer Protective Properties of Cocoa: A Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence. Nutrition and Cancer – an International Journal. 2009 61:5, 573-579
  5. Ahmed Al Sunni and Rabia Latif. Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. International Journal of Health Sciences, 2014, 8:4, 393-401
  6. Seigo Baba, Midori Natsume, Akiko Yasuda, Yuko Nakamura, Takaaki Tamura, Naomi Osakabe, Minoru Kanegae and Kazuo Kondo. Plasma LDL and HDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations are altered in normo- and hypercholesterolemic humans after intake of different levels of cocoa powder. The Journal of Nutrition, 2007, 137:6, 1436-1441
  7. R Latif. Chocolate/Cocoa and Human Health: a review. The Netherlands Journal of Medicine, 2013, 71:2, 63-68.

Published on 5 April 2017 | Back to April Articles