Category Archives: Health and nutrition

How Much Caffeine is in Chocolate?

Coffee and Chocolate

Chocolate or coffee, which has more caffeine?

Chocolate contains hundreds of chemical compounds including polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to stave off cancer and heart disease, as well as psychoactive compounds such as theobromine, theophylline,  and caffeine.  Theobromine and theophyliline are mild stimulants that are also partly responsible for that familiar and welcome chocolate buzz.  We all know caffeine as the stimulant found in coffee that brings us clarity and energy in the morning, but how much caffeine is in chocolate compared to drinks like coffee, tea or cola?

Let’s cut to the chase right now – chocolate doesn’t contain much caffeine.  Of course, the actual amount of caffeine you get depends upon factors such as the percent cacao (cocoa), where the beans were grown, how they were processed after harvest and how much you consume as a “typical” serving.  What’s a typical serving of chocolate? That’s up to you, but for high quality dark chocolate, you need much less to feel satisfied, so I’d say 20 grams at most which is a little less than half a small bar or 1/4 of a large one.  With that in mind, here are a few facts about caffeine in chocolate:

CHOCOLATE CAFFEINE PER SERVING SERVING SIZE
Milk Chocolate (junk) 4 mg 20 g
Milk Chocolate 45% Cacao 16 mg 20 g
Dark Chocolate 60% Cacao 24 mg 20 g
Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao 28 mg 20 g
Hot Chocolate (typical) 9 mg 8 oz.
Hot Chocolate – Rich 24 mg 8 oz. (made with 15g of 80% cocoa)

Unless you are monitoring your daily caffeine intake for medical reasons, there is no reason to get too caught up in the numbers.  The numbers don’t say much unless you compare them to something familiar, so here are some facts for common beverages:

BEVERAGE CAFFEINE PER SERVING SERVING SIZE
Brewed Coffee 140 mg 8 oz.
Single Shot Espresso 63 mg 1 oz.
Decaf Coffee 9 mg 8 oz.
Black Tea 65 mg 6 oz.
Green Tea 28mg 6 oz.
Coke Classic 35 mg 12 oz.
Red Bull 78 mg 250 mL

You may be surprised to see that a shot of espresso has less caffeine than a cup of brewed coffee despite its reputation as a sort of rocket fuel for the weary.  Actually, because the water is in contact with the espresso beans for only a short time, it does not fully extract the caffeine, but pulls out all the best coffee flavors and aromas into your cup.  So where does chocolate stand next to that little cup of espresso?  To get as much caffeine as a single shot of espresso, you would need to eat about three servings of 60% dark chocolate or 4 servings of quality milk chocolate.  On the other hand, to match the caffeine kick of a cup of coffee, you’d need to down 2 entire dark chocolate bars, 3 milk chocolate bars or 6 cups of hot cocoa.

Most people shouldn’t worry one bit about the small about of caffeine in chocolate.  If you’re worried that eating chocolate at night is going to keep you awake, don’t.  Don’t worry, that is.  Like most other good things in life, chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation and moderate amounts of chocolate are not going to affect most people.  But don’t come away from this thinking that milk chocolate is the best choice since it has less caffeine!  Eat milk chocolate if that’s what you like most, but generally speaking, dark chocolate will have more of all the healthy compounds that we seek from plant-based super foods like blueberries and grape juice, not to mention, more satisfying chocolate flavor.  So, rest well knowing you are choosing a healthy artisan food.

References and Notes:

[1] The data are averages from multiple sources.

[2] Goldberger BA, Lessig MC, McCusker RR, Cone EJ, Gold MS. Evaluation of Current Caffeine Content of Coffee Beverages: Recommendations for Clinicians Regarding Caffeine Exposure. Society of Biological Psychiatry’s Annual Convention and Scientific Program 2003. San Francisco, California.

[3] Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211

[4] Wikipedia on Caffeine

[5] Center for Science in the Public Interest

[6] Amano Chocolate Blog

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Summer Drinking Chocolate Recipe: The Mega Omega-3 “Raw” Chocolate Shake

Health Benefits of Flaxseed and Cacao

Blueberries, cocoa nibs and flaxseed combine forces to make this Mega Omega-3 Chocolate Shake

Blueberries, cocoa nibs and flaxseed combine forces to make this Mega Omega-3 Chocolate Shake

There has been an overwhelming amount of information published on the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in flaxseed – everything from cancer prevention to improved cardiovascular health and improved vision.  On the other hand, the health benefits of “Raw” chocolate (that which is minimally-processed and kept at low temperatures), are less well publicized, but no less important.  Cacao (the plant from which chocolate is made) is loaded with antioxidants, and cacao nibs – the roasted and cracked “beans” from the cacao pod – contain more than ten times the antioxidant content of blueberries [1].  Cocoa nibs (A.K.A. cacao nibs) are roasted as an essential step in developing the flavor of chocolate, but since all the downstream steps to make chocolate are skipped, nibs can be considered a minimally-processed food.  Put these two antioxidant superpowers together and you’ve got a satisfying and healthy treat.

The flaxseeds also act as a kind of binder and thickener so that you can create a thick shake that will keep all those beautiful cocoa nibs suspended.

Now, flaxseeds are shelf stable in whole form, but due to their oil content, will eventually go rancid after they are ground open.  So I recommend that you only grind as much as you need for a week or so and then keep what you don’t use in a tightly-closed container in the refrigerator.  The cacao nibs should be finely ground just before use in order to release the  natural fruity flavor and aroma of cacao.

The Mega Omega-3 “Raw” Chocolate Shake

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Tablespoons organic flaxseed (unroasted). Roasted seeds can be used instead to give a more nutty taste, but I prefer the lighter, more natural flavor of the unroasted seeds.
  • 3 Tablespoons finely ground cacao nibs.
  • 1 cup organic low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups frozen organic blueberries (if you use fresh blueberries, then add an extra ½ cup of ice).
  • 1 cup organic soy milk (you may substitute regular low fat milk or almond milk)
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • A blender

 

Preparation

Grind the flaxseed in a coffee mill for about 10 seconds.  Press your finger into the seeds after grinding – you should not feel any hard shells. Grind the cacao nibs in a coffee grinder for 15 – 20 seconds.  Some people claim success grinding nibs in the blender before any other wet ingredients are added, but my opinion is that this is not good for your blender.  Add everything to the blender and blend until the blueberries are no longer whole.

Kai likes it!

Kai likes it!

Serving

Fill tall glasses and float some nibs (virgin, not finely ground) and a few blueberries on top.  Enjoy and ask yourself: “do I feel healthy yet?”

Variations

•  Use 8 pitted dates instead of the blueberries.  They complement the chocolate well with an understated sweetness.
•  Use frozen pitted dark cherries instead of blueberries. They taste just as yummy (but can be difficult to find organic).
•  Vegan version: leave out the yogurt and replace it with ½ cup coconut milk.  For this version, use blueberries; not dates.

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Notes:

[1] The reported antioxidant capacity of foods varies by the method used for chemical analysis, so you may see different results reported here and there.  What’s clear is the antioxidant content of cacao nibs is among the highest of any food on an equivalent weight basis.  I will try to research the specifics for a future post, but I think you guys are more interested in other things for now.

[2] Kai likes everything.

[3] I paid for all the materials used to make this recipe.