Is There Room for Chocolate in a Balanced Diet?

Would you consider your relationship with chocolate to be a healthy one? This Valentine’s Day, you may have exchanged gifts that included some sweet treats like chocolate, which happens to account for over 58 million pounds of the sweets sold during the holiday. Candy and chocolate sales during Valentine’s Day profit over one billion dollars just here in the United States. For those of us attempting to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, is there room for chocolate when celebrating “Love Day”? Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Barbara Hailstone, says that chocolate consumption may actually contribute to a healthy diet – during the holidays or otherwise.

There is nothing better than a good friend
– except a good friend with chocolate.

Linda Grayson

Is There Room for Chocolate in My Diet?

Chocolate is a favorite treat of people all around the world. While chocolate can sometimes be believed to be “bad” or unhealthy, studies are showing that chocolate, eaten in moderation, may actually contribute to a healthy diet!

Chocolate Fun Facts:

  • Americans per capita consumption of chocolate is about 9 pounds per year.
  • A survey of 1,000 American adults found that chocolate was ranked as their favorite flavor for desserts and sweet snacks by a 3 to 1 margin.
  • The Aztecs of Central America first consumed chocolate as a drink. They consumed as many as 50 goblets of chocolate liquid per day.
  • The Cadbury Chocolate Company of England introduced the first chocolate bar in 1842.
  • In 1894, Milton Hershey added milk to chocolate and created the first milk chocolate bar.
  • In 1940, the Mars Company started making M & M’s for soldiers going to war.
  • Some people admit that they feel guilty about enjoying chocolate, but there is no reason they should if chocolate is eaten in moderation as a part of a balanced meal plan.

The Good News about Chocolate:

Chocolate is a plant-based food which contains a group of flavonoids called polyphenols. These special flavonoids differ from those found in other fruits and vegetables and research finds that they may help protect against diseases such as cancer. Research shows that since the seventeenth century, cocoa and chocolate have been used to treat a number of disorders, including angina and heart pain. In addition to the polyphenols found in chocolate are antioxidants, which are important because they get help remove free radicals from the body that have the potential to be linked to serious health issues such as heart disease and cancer. One study that tested the antioxidant levels in plant-based foods found that dark chocolate contains the highest level of antioxidants, followed by milk chocolate. The antioxidant levels of chocolate were significantly higher than those of fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, which are widely referred to as a “superfruit”. In addition to the powerful polyphenols and antioxidants found in chocolate are minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium. These healthy properties in chocolate are believed to contribute to improved heart function, blood flow, and brain health as well as increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, decreased LDL (bad”) cholesterol, decreased risk of heart disease and stroke, reduced stress, and a balanced immune system.

Having a healthy relationship with all foods is important for your overall health, and the same is true of chocolate. If you are a chocolate-lover and desire to create and maintain a balanced diet, consuming minimally processed dark chocolate is the best way to enjoy this treat and take advantage of the potential health benefits of chocolate. The higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the more flavanols available to provide health benefits. While researchers have yet to come up with a definitive number for how much chocolate you should consume on a regular basis to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, it is recommended that you should consume about one ounce as an occasional treat. It should be noted, though, that it is important to always check labels to be aware of the cocoa content as well as fat content, amount of added sugar, and the number of calories in your chocolate.

In conclusion, the keys for maintaining both a healthy relationship with chocolate and a healthy diet are moderation and balance. Remember that that the occasional indulgence of a sweet treat of any kind is not going to be detrimental to your overall health.

In addition to the well-balanced meals prepared in each of our St. John’s United communities, we are intentional about promoting overall health and wellness. A variety of wellness classes are available to our residents and the local community, and our on-staff nutritionists provide educational presentations to encourage balanced diets while enjoying the treats we all know and love. If you are interested in learning more about how St. John’s United promotes physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental, and occupational wellness in our communities and to the public.

Written by:
Barb Hailstone, RDN, LN
St. John’s United
Wellness and Lifestyle Concierge


  1. Toussant-Samat, M. (2008). History of food.
  2. Michigan State University
  3. Smithsonian
  4. Hopkins Medicine
  5. National Library of Medicine

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  • Posted on: February 14, 2024
  • Categories: Blog