Cocoa beans contain flavonoids, which have strong antioxidant properties that help cells in the body repair and resist damage. Whether dark chocolate, produced from cocoa beans, is good for you, though, does not have a simple answer. According to Nina Dahan, RD, Nutrition Center Coordinator at Maimonides Medical Center, "Dark chocolate must be at least 70% cocoa to have any benefit at all. Thankfully, most dark chocolates now specify their cocoa content on the front of the label, so consumers have that information in front of them. However, these chocolate bars also have a significant amount of saturated fat and sugar."
It's important to note that:
The darker the chocolate and the higher the cocoa content, the less sat fat and sugar. But, not by much.
Studies seem to indicate that 1.6 oz (4 squares of a bar) of dark chocolate daily for 2 weeks slightly improved blood flow, potentially promoting vascular health. Consumers, however, rarely consume 4 squares, and will likely eat a full bar.
Ms. Dahan concludes that, "Eating 4 squares of at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate may have some heart healthy benefits, as long as the rest of the diet is low in saturated fat and calories. Raw cocoa powder is a nice alternative to dark chocolate. It's high in flavonoids; more easily consumed in small quantities; rich in minerals; and can easily satisfy a chocolate craving, so as not to feel deprived."
Verdict: TRUE, but with some caveats