The best option for adding chocolate as a health food to your diet would be through natural cocoa powder, because it has the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols. However, cocoa powder is very bitter and may turn you off completely. It’s an acquired taste similar to drinking coffee. At first, you might start with a frappuccino and gradually work your way towards reducing the sugar and cream, until one day you can enjoy your coffee black.
The COSMOS participants are consuming about 750mg of cocoa flavanols per day. To consume this amount of flavanols from chocolate, you would have to eat 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder, or 4.75 ounces of dark chocolate (about 2-3 bars of craft chocolate), or 2.5 pounds of milk chocolate (more than 12 bars of craft chocolate). The calories you would be consuming at that point wouldn’t be worth the health benefits.
If you’re serious about upping your daily intake of cocoa flavanols, you may want to consider supplements. As far as consuming cocoa flavanols directly from chocolate, the key is moderation. Start with 70% dark chocolate, eventually working your way towards darker chocolates or cocoa powder.An acceptable target for a balanced diet would be about 200mg of cocoa flavanols per day or a few times per week, which is half a bar of dark chocolate or about 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Enjoy a half- or quarter-bar of dark chocolate with other flavanol-rich fruits and vegetables like apples, red grapes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and kale as an afternoon snack. Or, try mixing ¾ tablespoon of cocoa powder into your morning coffee or oatmeal, or drink it with a glass of milk.
As you add chocolate into your diet, consider cutting back on baked goods and sugary treats to prevent weight gain and adverse health effects.