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Healthy Sugar Free Chocolate

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As if the thought of savoring a square (or a whole bar) of sugar free chocolates wasn’t enticing enough, sugar free chocolates health claims are pretty appealing too. We’ve heard everything: It lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, improves cognitive function, protects your skin, and more. Check out what experts had to say about how healthy this treat actually is.

The health benefits of Sugar Free Chocolates

There’s been lots of research on sugar free chocolates, but the hype has outpaced the science. Translation: Eating sugar free chocolates won’t instantly or directly accomplish any of the above. What is certain is that cocoa is rich in three types of flavonoids—phytochemicals in nearly all plant-based foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. This is important because chronic inflammation is linked to conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, asthma, heart disease, and cancer.

“These compounds also benefit cardiovascular health by improving blood flow, reducing the risk of clotting, and improving blood pressure levels,” says Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Cocoa is also rich in iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium, all critical minerals needed for healthy blood, immunity, and cell growth.

How to choose the healthiest chocolate

  • Dig sugar free chocolates. Grab a bar with 70% cocoa or higher (more cocoa equals more flavonoids). If sugar free chocolates tastes too bitter for you, dark milk chocolate is a pretty sweet compromise—it has less sugar and more cocoa than traditional milk chocolate, which may have as little as 10%. If it says “milk chocolate” but has a cocoa percentage of 38% or higher, you’ll know it’s dark milk.
  • Read the ingredients. Chocolate, cocoa, or cacao should appear first in the ingredient list, meaning there’s more of it by weight. If sugar is firs on the list or you see unfamiliar ingredients, steer clear, says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.N., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
  • Know your source. Dutch-processed cocoa tends to have a reduced flavonoid content because of how the chocolate is processed, while one recent study found that cocoa beans from Colombia had the highest flavonoid content, likely because of things like plant variety and geography.

What about serving size?

There’s no magic quantity of sugar free chocolates you need to eat to get those flavonoids; the dosage used in studies varies. But experts agree that you should treat it like you would any other piece of candy and consume it in moderation.

“It’s best reserved as a treat,” says Young. “Yes, it does contain antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals, but let’s not call it a health food—it still contains plenty of sugar and fat.” In other words, aim for 1/4 of a full-size bar.

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