It is no secret that I love chocolate and as an avid chocolate lover I have often been challenged to defend my love.  Within these conversations, there has been a recurring question that I have not felt fully competent to answer.  I started to do some research and found a lot of questions exist about the chemical caffeine and its relationship to chocolate.  Does chocolate contain caffeine?

There are many components to the conventional chocolate bar; cacao butter, cacao solids, sugar, milk and fillers.  That is your average chocolate bar, which does in fact contain caffeine.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest did a comparison of different foods and drinks that contain caffeine and found a Dark Chocolate Hershey Bar contains about 20mg of caffeine per 1.5 ounces.  The caffeine in chocolate products is found primarily in the cacao solids, of which dark chocolate has larger amounts.  Milk chocolate contains less caffeine and comes in at about 9mg of caffeine per 1.5 ounces.  Cacao powder, which is primarily solids, has about 8mg of caffeine per teaspoon.

To put this in perspective the average cup of coffee can have about 200-400mg of caffeine.  In comparison to raw cacao at 8mg per teaspoon, this is a very minimal amount.  If you are sensitive to caffeine you may feel a slight effect after consuming chocolate.  However, there is another chemical found in chocolate that also has a stimulant type effect; theobromine.

Theobromine is a phytochemical that has a similar structure to caffeine and therefore has a stimulant-like effect on the body.  Unlike caffeine, theobromine is not a nervous system stimulant and instead dilates the cardiovascular system, making the heart’s job easier and providing the body with what feels like more energy.  Theobromine does not have the same “addictive” type properties that caffeine has.

In conclusion, chocolate does contain small amounts of caffeine.  If you eat a lot of chocolate you may feel the stimulant types of effects from the combination of the caffeine and theobromine.  Next time you get in a heated debate about the caffeine contents of chocolate, you will be armed with research and knowledge and even touted as the chocolate expert!  That’s a pretty spiffy title in my opinion.


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About The Author

Sarah Lefkowitz's picture

Sarah Lefkowitz, Registered Dietitian (RD) was raised in an “organic foods only” home which taught her first hand the importance of a healthy diet. She developed a passion for cooking, farmer’s markets, food nutrient composition, yoga, nutrition education, and living a healthy and active lifestyle. Her philosophy revolves around the idea of food as medicine; looking at the properties of individual foods and harnessing them into life-long health and vitality. Earning her Bachelor of Science from the Pennsylvania State University in Nutritional Science she moved to LA to study nutrition in the UCLA Medical Center Dietetic Internship Program. She has worked within health care as part of the patient care team, rounding with doctors in ICU (intensive care unit) and trauma centers. Additionally, she provided outpatient counseling in a digestive disease clinic, wound care clinic and center for geriatric health. One of her greatest accomplishments within health care, was starting a hospital funded garden in Lynwood, CA, that provided low income families with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Stepping out of health care was a highly anticipated change of pace within her career and opened her eyes to a world beyond the hospital. Working with a start-up company run by the former CEO of AOL and Myspace, presented an exciting amount of new challenges. She was involved in education, branding, social media and marketing of a widely popular woman's athletic wear company. Going further into her career she led the Los Angeles Dietetic Association as President and continues to build a community under the name FearlessFig that is focused on health and wellness, creating a support system for a healthy lifestyle.

"My passion for nutrition and helping others has taken me on an incredible journey and I want to share that with you.” 

Instagram: FearlessFig

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