Diet and Nutrition

Are Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder the Next Super Foods?

Are Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder the Next Super Foods?

Key Takeaways

  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder may be considered "super foods" due to their high antioxidant activity.
  • Chocolate products frequently contain more antioxidants than do other super foods.
  • Chocolate should be consumed in moderation due to its high calorie and fat levels.

According to a study published in the Chemistry Central Journal cocoa powder and dark chocolate can be considered ‘super foods’ because of the abundant antioxidants they contain. The antioxidant activity in these foods were found to be equivalent to or higher than some other well known ‘super foods’ like acai berry, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate.

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals and are thought to be heart healthy. Two antioxidants, polyphenols and flavanols, have been the center of many studies because of their potential health benefits. Many foods and fruits containing these antioxidants are named as super foods.

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, preventive cardiologist from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says that these antioxidants protect the heart by keeping the arteries healthy and thus a square of dark chocolate may be the best choice as a snack. Dark chocolates contain a higher amount of cocoa powder than chocolate milk.

In the Chemistry Central study, the total flavanol and polyphenol content, and also the antioxidant activity of cocoa powder and dark chocolate was compared with those of fruits like acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate. The results showed that the antioxidant activity of cocoa powder was higher than all other super fruits in the analysis. The average total flavanol content in cocoa powder was 30.1 milligrams per gram, which was higher than the 10 milligrams per gram found in super fruits.

The antioxidant activity of one serving of dark chocolate was also significantly higher than the antioxidant activity of super juices, except for pomegranate juice. The highest total flavanol content was found in dark chocolate (500 milligrams) followed by a cocoa beverage which contained about 400 milligrams. Super juices had only about 200 milligrams per serving.

As the calorie and fat content in dark chocolate is much higher than the content of super foods, this new ‘super food’ should be enjoyed in moderation.