For many of us, chocolate is a guilty treat, one that we feel we shouldn’t be having. Yet, chocolate can also be incredibly healthy. It contains a range of beneficial compounds from the cocoa plant and has even been considered a superfood.
But, many people want to know about the carbs in dark chocolate. If you’re on a low carb or a keto diet, this topic is critical.
And even if you’re not, a carb-laden sweet treat isn’t the best way to promote health.
So then, this post takes a detailed look at why dark chocolate is a powerful low carb snack. We also highlight the best low carb dark chocolate brands. These are all perfect for getting started with the chocolate.
What Makes Dark Chocolate So Healthy?
Interest in dark chocolate for health has been rapidly growing – and for good reason.
The benefits are associated with the compounds from the cocoa bean, including a class known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are common in other plants and plant-based products, including fruit, vegetables and wine.
A diet high in flavonoids is associated with many benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease (1,2,3,4) and of type 2 diabetes (5,6). Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants and helps lower inflammation. These are additional reasons for observed benefits (7,8).
There has also been detailed research into specific impacts of dark chocolate. For example, one study found that eating chocolate five or more times a week decreased heart disease risk by up to 57% (9). Other studies have found similar outcomes (10,11,12).
There are many more studies on dark chocolate, along with specific health benefits. The articles below go into some of those areas in more detail – highlighting the depth and strength of current research. Dark chocolate is even is healthy for your gut bacteria.
Because most of the benefits come from the cocoa bean, they are also present in cacao nibs and in cocoa. There may also be more benefits in products with high cocoa concentration. This is a key reason for recommending dark chocolate over milk chocolate, as dark chocolate contains more cocoa.
In a similar way, the higher dark chocolate concentrations (like 85% and 90% cocoa) are likely to offer more benefits than the lower ones.
Eating Low Carb Chocolate and Weight Loss
Beyond these health benefits, dark chocolate has been linked to weight loss.
One reason is simply the low carb and sugar content. This makes dark chocolate perfect for many weight loss approaches, including keto and low carb diets.
Dark chocolate also works well as a weight loss snack. This may seem counterintuitive, as the calorie content of dark and milk chocolate is often similar. But, dark chocolate tends to be more satisfying and harder to overeat.
As a result, dark chocolate works well for reducing sweet cravings during weight loss.
Eating dark chocolate after a meal can also decrease hunger, increase satiation (19) and lower how much is consumed in the following meal (20). This is partly because it can be fairly high in fiber. Actually, dark chocolate is higher in fiber than many people realize.
How Many Carbs in Dark Chocolate?
Determining the number of carbs present should be a simple topic. But, of course, it’s not really. Each company has their own processes and will vary in the ingredients they choose.
For example, some dark chocolate brands focus on flavor first. This may mean that some sugar and fat are added in, while the cocoa percentage may be lower.
As the site Patric Chocolate points out, many of the terms used to market dark chocolate are misleading and don’t always mean the same thing. Even phrases like 70% cocoa can have different implications. Likewise, a high cocoa percentage doesn’t always mean high-quality chocolate.
This means you must be careful about both the brands and the chocolate that you choose.
As for how many carbs, the number varies. Low carb products may contain just a few carbs per serving (depending on the serving size). On the other hand, brands like Dove have more than 20 grams of net carbs in their chocolate.
What is Low Carb Dark Chocolate?
As the term implies, low carb dark chocolate is simply dark chocolate that is low in carbs. This typically suggests that there is little added sugar. There are often fewer other ingredients as well.
But, not all products are the same. Some examples are healthier than others. Likewise, some products will taste better.
Difference is cocoa percentage is key.
As a general rule, a higher percentage is healthier. This gives you more of the beneficial compounds from dark chocolate. For example, many ketoers focus on 99% unsweetened dark chocolate. That percentage is powerful for cooking and some people can even eat it outright.
Of course, you’ll have to find a balance that works for you. 99% is very intense and you might not enjoy it as a snack.
For the benefits of dark chocolate, you want at least 75% cocoa. If you can, 85% cocoa or above is a better choice.
Another difference is ingredients. For dark chocolate to be low carb, the company has to decrease the amount of sugar, along with some other ingredients.
But, the end result can be somewhat bitter and hard to eat – particularly for the higher cocoa percentages.
To get around this, some companies will include extra ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners. Products like this may still be low carb, but they won't be be as good for you.
Dark Chocolate That is Not Low Carb
It’s easy to assume that all dark chocolate is low carb. But, that’s not true.
There isn’t even a legal requirement for what can and cannot be called dark chocolate (21). Because of this, the phrase doesn’t always mean what you expect.
A good example is Dove Dark Chocolate, which is marketed as being ‘a natural source of cocoa flavanols’. The product is also popular, yet it has the following ingredients label.
Here, the chocolates have 19 grams of sugar and 21 net carbs. That’s an incredibly high amount. The company also doesn’t state the cocoa percentage, which is an immediate red flag.
This is probably why Dove is so popular. The treats are much easier to eat than other dark chocolate because of that sugar. Of course, there are fewer health benefits and the product certainly isn’t low carb.
There are other brands that do this too. For example, Hershey’s Special Dark has 19 grams of sugar, as well and 20 net carbs. So, checking the labels is always critical.
A good indication is the percentage. If the cocoa percentage is lower than 55% or not stated, then the chocolate probably has significant added sugar. But, some brands may look good at face value and have surprising extra ingredients.
That’s why the next section highlights some brands that you can trust.
The Best Low Carb Dark Chocolate Bars
There are many good low carb brands out there – including some obscure companies. Here, we’re focusing on some of the very best, along with why they’re worth trying out.
The chocolate bars chosen all meet a few key criteria:
- At least 85% cacao
- Has less than 12 g net carbs per serving (note, serving sizes vary between brands)
- Contains few ingredients
- Focuses on quality and/or features like fair trade and USDA organic certification
Endangered Species – 88% Cocoa
Nutrition Facts: Endangered Species
Endangered Species is one of my favorite dark chocolate brands, partly because of their quality. The products are fair trade, non-GMO, gluten free and vegan. There is a strong ethical focus as well, with 10% of their profits used to protect endangered species.
This might not seem like a low carb bar at first glance, but that’s just the serving size. The recommended serving is 43 grams, which is half of the bar. You could have much less in a sitting and still be satisfied.
The chocolate is also easy to find and is fairly inexpensive.
Another advantage is the flavor. The product contains some vanilla and sugar, which makes it taste better. This is a good choice for anyone still getting used to dark chocolate.
The main disadvantage is that the bar isn’t organic.
Lindt Excellence – 85% Cocoa Extra Dark
Nutrition Facts: Lindt Excellence
Lindt is a good choice for the budget conscious. It is one of the most common brands as well and the chocolate bars are easy to find.
In this case, the serving size is four squares. This is probably more than you would have in a serving. Many people would just stick to one or two squares, which makes the carb count much more realistic.
One of my favorite aspects is the squares, which are large and thin. This style can be more enjoyable when you’re eating the chocolate.
The brand does have higher percentages as well, including 90% and 99%. Many ketoers prefer the 99% option and it is one of the most common 99% bars available.
Even so, the 85% cocoa has advantages. This is currently Lindt’s highest percentage bar that isn’t processed with alkali. In contrast, alkali is used for the 90% and the 99%. It’s not clear why this is but the goal may be to decrease the bitterness.
The overall flavor is appealing, although it isn’t as good as some of the other brands. Even so, the chocolate receives consistently positive reviews.
The product is gluten free but it isn’t organic or fair trade. Whether this is an issue will depend on your priorities.
Alter Eco – Dark Blackout (85% Cocoa)
Nutrition Facts: Alter Eco
Alter Eco is a less common brand, but they make some appealing products. Their 85% option uses just 4 ingredients (cacao beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar and vanilla beans). It’s nice to see a brand with few additives.
The company also focuses on being healthy and transparent. This includes being USDA organic, GMO-free, gluten free, fair trade and soy free.
The net carbs are also lower, at just 6 grams per serving. Once again, a serving is roughly half the bar, so it’s far more than you should need.
This is also a popular bar for its flavor and isn’t too expensive either.
Chocolove – Extreme Dark Chocolate (88% Cocoa)
Nutrition Facts: Chocolove
Chocolove is a relatively common brand in stores but their high percentage products can be hard to find. However, this 88% chocolate bar is worth searching for, as it offers a great flavor, along with good nutrition.
In this case, the serving is roughly a third of the bar and contains 6 grams of net carbs. That’s not too bad, especially if you cut the serving in half.
The company doesn’t use fair trade but they do have a For Life certification instead, which is a similar thing. However, the label states that the bar contains ‘78% For Life Certified Content’, rather than 100%.
The chocolate isn’t organic either and does use soy lectin as an ingredient.
One interesting aspect is the cocoa. This is sourced from various regions, which creates a more complex and nuanced flavor than normal. The chocolate is intense but still very pleasant. It could be a good choice if you want something a little more unusual.
Divine Dark Chocolate – 85%
Nutrition Facts: Divine
At 10 grams of net carbs per serving Divine Dark Chocolate doesn’t seem low carb. But, this is another product with a large serving size (close to half the bar). Even if you just half the serving size, you’re left with something much more manageable.
The chocolate isn’t organic or vegan and may contain gluten and soy as well. Nevertheless, it is fair trade and non-GMO. The company also avoids artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives.
This one uses less vanilla, which creates a more distinct initial cocoa taste. The overall texture remains smooth and the bar is popular for the flavor profile.
Dagoba Organic Chocolate – Eclipse (87%)
Nutrition Facts: Dagoba
This bar hasn’t been featured on previous lists but it is an appealing option. What makes it stand out is the unusual flavors, which include notes of spice, red wine and fruit. The chocolate is also less smooth than other brands, adding to the unique experience.
The bar is organic and gluten free, while having a fair trade focus as well.
One issue is the size. The entire bar is just 56 grams (which is also the serving size). This makes it relatively expensive.
Guidelines to Eating Low Carb Chocolate
The right dark chocolate is a good component of a low carb diet – either as a snack or an ingredient. Even so, there are additional considerations.
Set limits. You need to set realistic limits on your chocolate consumption, typically a few squares (at the most). Even if you can fit it in your macros, large amounts of dark chocolate won’t offer additional benefits and could lead to weight gain.
Know yourself. Dark chocolate is a good way to reduce sugar cravings and helps people stick to their diet. But, that’s not always the case. If the chocolate increases your cravings, it may not be the right snack for you.
Consider sweeteners. Sweeteners can make dark chocolate easier to eat but people vary in what they enjoy and what they can tolerate. This is particularly true for sugar alcohols, which can cause stomach problems. If you are sensitive to any sweetener, keep an eye out for it on the ingredients label.
Double check labels. Make sure there are no hidden carbs and be certain about the net carbs as well. Also be aware of the serving size, as this can vary between brands.
Recheck labels. Companies periodically change their recipes and processes. This can sometimes change the net carbs as well. As such, you should check the label each time you buy dark chocolate, even if you trust the brand.
Go as dark as you can. On average, higher cocoa percentages offer more benefits and contain fewer carbs. You may not be able to stomach 99% cocoa but 80% or 85% is enjoyable for many people.
Take your time. Going from milk chocolate to dark chocolate can be a gradual process. Many people start off at the lower cocoa percentages (like 75% or 77%) and work their way up from there. This helps you adjust to the bitterness and makes it easier to enjoy the dark chocolate.
Low Carb Raw Cacao and Low Carb Chips
Dark chocolate isn’t the only way to get benefits from cocoa. Many people also rely on raw cacao powder, low carb chocolate chips and cacao nibs. These all have advantages and are suitable for different situations.
For example, cacao powder is particularly common for hot drinks and for cooking.
Cacao powder and cocoa powder are mostly the same thing. However, as I Quit Sugar explains, raw cacao powder is made from unroasted cocoa beans, via cold pressing. This process removes the fat but keeps the other healthy compounds in place, including the polyphenols.
In contrast, cocoa powder has been roasted, which changes the chemical composition. Many brands add extra ingredients to cocoa powder, which tends to increase the carb content. A good brand for this is Viva Naturals, which offers popular high-quality cacao powder.
Low carb dark chocolate chips are a common ingredient in low carb and keto recipes. A good choice is Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Chips. These contain 3 grams of net carbs per 14-gram serving (roughly 60 chocolate chips).
The brand is 55% dark chocolate and uses stevia for sweetening. While the cocoa percentage isn’t ideal, it’s similar to what other brands offer. Because you are using this for cooking rather than snacking, the lower cocoa percentage is fine.
The chocolate chips are popular because they melt and blend well. Many other brands don’t do this.
And finally, we come to cacao nibs. These are a powerful way to get health benefits because they are less processed. The nibs are simply dried and roasted cocoa beans. You can also find raw cocoa nibs, which haven’t even been roasted.
Because there is so little processing, cacao nibs are a powerful source of cocoa compounds. They are also perfect for a low carb diet and are naturally low in carbs. Cacao nibs work well for snacking or sprinkled over meals.
Be warned though, they are an acquired taste.
Cacao nibs do tend to be intense and have an unusual taste and texture combination. The images below are high-quality brands that can work well.
Choosing Low Carb Chocolate Bars and Low Carb Chips
I’ve highlighted various good brands for low carb chocolate. It’s also important that you can choose on your own. After all, new brands and products are released regularly. The availability of products also varies based on where you are.
So, let’s take a look at criteria for finding good low carb chocolate.
Organic. Organic products may offer more health benefits and the companies often have a much stronger focus on product quality. This makes organic a better choice whenever possible.
Percentage Cocoa. Higher percentages tend to offer more health benefits. Your chocolate should be at least 75% cocoa and the ideal is 85% cocoa or above.
Fair Trade. Fair trade chocolate focuses on making sure the people involved in production get paid fairly. Some companies use a fair trade certification, while others may have their own programs for promoting this outcome.
Non-Dutched. The cocoa in some dark chocolate is dutched, which means processed with alkali. This processing step helps to create a more mellow flavor but may reduce some of the health benefits from the cocoa as well (22,23,24). If you’re wanting the full health benefits of the chocolate, make sure there is no reference to alkali or dutching on the ingredients label.
Soy Free. Soy is a controversial topic but it is an ingredient that some people avoid. If this is the case for you, focus on brands that say they are free from soy.
Gluten Free. Dark chocolate can have gluten-containing ingredients or be contaminated with gluten. The information can normally be found on the ingredients label. Some companies also focus on being gluten free, making them a good choice.
Price. All of these considerations do have to be balanced out against price. For example, many of the cheaper brands may not be organic but they still produce a high-quality product. Ultimately, which you choose will be influenced by your budget and personal priorities.
Low Carb FAQ
Beyond the basics, there are some other areas to consider concerning chocolate and a low carb diet.
Carbs and Milk Chocolate
As a general rule, carbs decrease as cocoa percentage increases. This means that dark chocolate is normally much lower in carbs than milk chocolate.
Of course, recipes do differ and there are some low carb milk chocolate brands out there too. The site Low Carb Yum even offers a recipe for low carb chocolate, using stevia as a sweetener.
Milk chocolate is often easier to eat than dark chocolate. That’s partly why it is so popular as a snack. However, milk chocolate has less cocoa than dark chocolate and offers fewer health benefits as a result.
Is Sugar Free Chocolate Low Carb?
Sugar free chocolate does tend to be low carb and is the main way you’ll fine low carb milk chocolate.
However, you do need to be very careful about checking ingredients labels. Most sugar free chocolate brands do use maltitol as a sweetener. This is a sugar alcohol and a common low carb addition (25).
Sugar alcohols work because relatively little of the ingredient is absorbed, resulting in a low blood sugar impact.
Ruled.me has a powerful guide on the various sweeteners, including sugar alcohols. As they state, sugar alcohols tend to be fine for low carb and keto diets. But, some people are sensitive to the sweetener and may experience stomach discomfort.
Sugar free products can also have more added ingredients to balance the flavor. This means you need to read the ingredients label closely and watch out for any hidden sources of carbs.
It’s also worth remembering that sugar free items aren’t always low carb. This is something that the site Sugar-Free Mom points out as well.
With products like chocolate, most of the carbs do come from sugar, so sugar free is likely to mean low carbs. But, there will always be exceptions and some sugar free chocolate may have more carbs than you expect.
What About Low Carb Chocolate?
You may also find some products that are specifically labeled as low carb chocolate.
The idea is normally just a marketing tactic, due to the popularity of keto and low carb diets. Anything promoted in this way will either be sugar free chocolate of some description or just dark chocolate with little added sugar.
Products like this may still be good but they’re no better than the brands highlighted earlier.
Dark Chocolate on a Keto Diet
It’s clear that dark chocolate can be low in carbs. This means that you can include it on a keto diet – and many people do.
Dark chocolate makes a great keto snack, partly because there is no preparation needed. Plus, there are many good brands to choose from.
You’re not just limited to eating chocolate on its own. There are many great keto recipes that use chocolate as well. The site Low Carb Maven offers a list of 20 Keto Chocolate Desserts. All of those are great recipes and could inspire your own cooking as well.
The site Very Well also has an article about low carb cooking with chocolate. This is perfect for anyone who hasn’t tried the approach before.
Is There a Best Low Carb Chocolate Bar?
There isn’t a single best product for low carb dark chocolate, simply because of individual preferences. For that matter, every brand tastes slightly different, even if you’re comparing the same percentage.
For that reason, it’s worth trying out different brands to work out which one suits you the best. The products listed previously are all healthy choices and many of them are popular among keto dieters.
Nutritionally, you’re always going to get the most benefits from bars with a high cocoa percentage. Ones that are fair trade, organic and soy free are also good options.
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