A few months ago I was in the middle of ketosis, and a friend brought over some very nice dark chocolates from England. They were 70% cocoa mixed with ginger and blood orange, and I wanted them badly. But I thought to myself, wait... isn't all chocolate full of carbs? Well, it turns out the story is a bit more complicated than that.
Your choice of chocolate can widely affect the net carbs present, and today we're going to cover exactly what you need to know about eating dark chocolate on keto.
Specifically, we'll look into:
- If you can eat dark chocolate on keto
- What dark chocolate is
- Best practices for choosing dark chocolate
- The benefits of adding dark chocolate to your diet
- Our favorite dark chocolate brands
Can you eat dark chocolate on keto?
Yes — if you stick to a higher concentration of cacao solids and eat in moderation. For example, a 1 oz (30 g) serving of 100% cacao dark chocolate may contain just 3 grams of net carbs, whereas a full bar at 70-85% may contain 35 grams[*][*].
Here are the net carb counts of different cocoa percent ranges per "1 bar" (141g) of dark chocolate[*]:
- 45-59% chocolate: 77.2g net carbs
- 60-69% chocolate: 49.9g net carbs
- 70-85% chocolate: 35.3 net carbs
The net carbs for the highest range is around half of the net carb count for a bar in the 45-59% range. The lesson to learn? Go for the higher percent chocolates when available.
And don't worry... there are some lower carb options below!
What is dark chocolate anyway?
Dark chocolate is chocolate without any milk added, and it typically has a higher percentage of chocolate compared to their milk chocolate relatives. Pure chocolate is remarkably bitter, so dark chocolate is closer to that original bitterness without sacrificing any deliciousness.
Milk chocolate fans will hate me for saying it, but I think dark chocolate is for people who actually like chocolate. It's like black coffee — you get more of the actual flavor.
Chocolate has a long and rich history. It begins in Central America, where the Aztecs drank a kind of bitter hot chocolate mixed with different spices. The word chocolate comes from the Aztec word "xocoatl", and the Latin name for the cacao tree literally means "food of the gods".
After the Spanish Inquisition, the Spaniards began importing this strange drink back to the courts, and people soon figured out that adding sugar made a heck of a difference. After that, the world would never be the same[*].
Difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate
Milk chocolate includes milk solids along with the chocolate, and it usually has a lower percentage (10%-50%) of chocolate solids. Milk chocolates are often made up of a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, milk solids, and flavorings such as vanilla. Dark chocolate eliminates all milk from the recipe and ups the percentage of cocoa solids, and this difference tends to yield a lower carb count[*].
Best practices for choosing dark chocolate
Aim for higher chocolate percentages
The higher the concentration of cocoa solids, the less room for carb-adding ingredients. The closer to the pure bitterness of cocoa you get, the less sugar you'll typically have!
Look for no added sugars
You have a bit of choice here: either you choose to eat more of the chocolates that use alternative sweeteners or natural sweeteners like monk fruit to drop the carb amount, or you reduce your serving size substantially and opt for more traditional chocolates. Both options are fine as long as you have an accurate idea of your net carb intake for the day.
Look at the bar and carb count
The last thing you want to do is just buy a random bar of dark chocolate and have a few pieces before thinking about the carb count. Always check your labels. This goes beyond chocolate, but it is especially important if you're trying to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Nutritional benefits of dark chocolate
While the health benefits of dark chocolate tend to be overhyped, there are some legitimate nutrients found in dark chocolate. Just be sensible — yes chocolate in small amounts can carry health benefits, but you shouldn't prioritize chocolate in a way that distorts a balanced diet.
Full of nutrients and antioxidants
Dark chocolate includes lots of soluble fiber, high concentrations of minerals like magnesium, iron, and copper, and dark chocolate is full of organic compounds that function as antioxidants. These compounds include polyphenols, flavonols, and catechins, among others[*].
May improve brain function
A study of healthy and controlled volunteers found improved blood flow to the brain after eating high-flavonol cocoa for 5 days[*]. It also contains a tiny bit of caffeine, which could play into why people attribute a clearer mind to chocolate.
Can lower blood pressure
Although the effects are mild, many studies have shown that cocoa can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow[*].
Dark chocolate does have some mild health benefits such as improving blood pressure and delivering high concentrations of minerals, but it should be eaten as part of a balanced lifestyle and not overly relied upon.
Our favorite keto dark chocolate brands
You'll have to evaluate the dark chocolate you eat on a case by case basis, but here are a few options that are better for ketoers:
Hu Vegan Chocolate Bars
With 11g of net carbs per half of a bar, this brand is keto-friendly and doesn't compromise on its ingredients. This chocolate isn't cheap, but it's delicious and as natural as it gets.
Per serving: 170 calories, 13g fat, 11g net carbs, 2g protein
ChocZero Keto Bark
If you’re more of a chocolate-covered almonds person, then this is for you. With only 2g of net carbs per ounce, these delectable snacks will get your fix without destroying your carb counts.
Per serving: 120 calories, 10g fat, 2g net carbs, 1g protein
Green & Black's Organic 85%
This bar does have a bit of added sugar, but it still only has 7g of carbs per 10 pieces (30g). That's a pretty good bang for your carb buck, and these bars are delicious.
Per serving: 190 calories, 15g fat, 7g net carbs, 3g protein
Lindt Excellence Bar 90%
I've included Lindt as another mainstream option. These are higher in carbs, with 7g of net carbs per 4 pieces, but if you're careful you can absolutely eat this on keto. Just make sure you leave enough room in your carb count to account for your sweet tooth!
Per serving: 240 calories, 22g fat, 7g net carbs, 4g protein
Lily's Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
Here's an option if you want an even smaller serving size or are looking to make some keto cookies! There are only 5g of net carbs per 60 chips, so adding these to your dessert won't add many carbs at all! Just don't eat the whole bag in one day!
Per serving: 50 calories, 4.5g fat, 5g net carbs, 1g protein
The bottom line on dark chocolate
Like many foods on the keto diet, eating dark chocolate in moderation while keeping a close eye on your net carb amount for the day is absolutely fine. If you opt for lower sugar and higher cocoa chocolates you make it even safer. Check every label, and treat every bit as a special occasion (which you should with chocolate anyway!)
Keto is a temporary, rolling diet, so try and do your best to shed your sweet habits while you're in it, but use the guidelines in this blog to make a good decision if you do decide to speak to those chocolate cravings. Sometimes opportunities are too hard to pass up!
And as always — good luck with your keto journey. We're rooting for you.