Not only can delicious dark chocolate fuel weight loss thanks to its plethora of flavonoids and health-boosting nutrients, but it’s also been shown to diminish the risk of heart attack and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Even so, you should tread carefully in the candy aisle, as not all dark chocolates are created equal. In fact, many dark chocolates marketed as healthy are anything but. To avoid a nutritional-dud, let the wrapper be your guide.
Anything that’s labeled “made with chocolate,” “chocolaty,” or “chocolate-coated” likely doesn’t contain very much—if any—cocoa butter, the ingredient responsible for dark chocolate’s waist-whittling effect, explains Minneapolis-based dietitian Cassie Bjork RD, LD. And bars marked “dutch processed” or “alkalized” have been treated with an alkalizing agent to balance the cacao’s natural acidity, which reduces the flavonoid and polyphenol content substantially. Chocolates with more than 10 grams of sugar per ounce are no-gos, as are bars made with less than 70 percent cacao, the primary health-boosting ingredient in chocolate, says Bjork.
That’s a lot to remember, we know. To help you out, we found some of the very worst chocolates on supermarket shelves—and there are a ton of them! Avoid the sweets below at all costs, and if you’re unsure if a bar you’re considering is a healthy pick, refer back to Bjork’s wrapper indicators above.
Lindt Sweet Dark Excellence Bar, 1 ounce
|Saturated Fat||6.4 g|
“Sugar should be the last ingredient on a chocolate bar’s list, or at least listed after cocoa,” notes Bjork. This nutritionally void Lindt bar has the sweet stuff listed first, indicating that there is more sugar than any other ingredient per bite. What’s worse, the chocolate was also found to contain lead and cadmium in an independent laboratory test conducted by the environmental and social corporate responsibility organization, As You Sow. While cadmium has been shown to cause kidney, liver and bone damage as well as reproductive harm in humans, exposure to lead has been associated with neurological impairment, especially in children, as their brains have yet to fully develop. For this reason, pregnant women and moms with tiny tots should be extra careful to steer clear of this chocolate bar.
Hershey’s Special Dark, 1 oz
|Saturated Fat||5.5 g|
We’re not quite sure what Hershey’s thinks is so special about their dark chocolate bar because, as far as we can see, it’s pretty awful. In addition to sugar stealing the first spot on the ingredient panel, it’s manufactured with alkalized cocoa, which means its cancer– and cardiovascular disease-fighting powers are severely diminished.
Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles, 0.8 oz (2 truffles)
|Saturated Fat||8.7 g|
Though Lindt uses some cocoa butter in their truffle recipe, they also mix in palm kernel oil — bad news for your health and weight loss progress. “The stearic acid in cocoa butter fights inflammation and staves off hunger, but the highly processed palm kernel oil promotes inflammation and passes quickly through the GI tract, so you won’t likely won’t reap much of this truffle’s cocoa benefits,” explains Bjork.
Dove Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate Singles Bar, 1 oz
|Saturated Fat||5.6 g|
Dove claims this bar is “made from the finest quality cacao,” but don’t be fooled! The cacao in this chocolate bar is anything but high quality. In fact, it’s been processed with alkali. It gets worse: This is yet another bar that was found to contain health-harming cadmium. Save your cash and steer clear to improve your total health.
55% Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate, 1 oz
|Saturated Fat||6.1 g|
Sure, this chocolate is USDA organic and fair trade certified, non-GMO project verified and vegan, but don’t let all those food label buzz-words distract you from the cold, hard truth: The majority of this bar is filled with sugar, not cocoa. Leave it behind and pick up something else—there are far better options in the supermarket.
Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bars, Sugar Free, 0.8 oz (3 pieces)
|Saturated Fat||4.8 g|
|Sugar Alcohol||10.2 g|
We’re only supposed to eat 50 grams of sugar a day for optimal health, according to the World Health Organization, so it’s understandable if you’re trying to reel in your sweet tooth a bit. Just don’t use sugar-free sweets as a crutch. When manufacturers take out sugar, they often add in sugar alcohols like maltitol (as Hershey’s did with these minis), which can have a laxative effect if eaten in excess. In fact, Hershey’s slaps that very disclaimer on the package of their alkali-spiked chocolate. You want a dessert that will make your taste buds sing—not send you running straight for the bathroom, so skip this bar and enjoy some of these delicious low-sugar snacks instead.
Dark Chocolate M&Ms, 1 oz (about ½ the package)
|Saturated Fat||4.1 g|
This recipe calls for more sugar than cocoa butter and is laden with a myriad of artificial colors, some of which have even been banned in other countries because of their proven health dangers. What’s more, just half a package of M&Ms contains nearly 16 grams of sugar—and we both know you’re bound to polish off the entire lot. When you do, you’ll have downed over 60 percent of the day’s sugar in a matter of minutes.