Is Dark Chocolate Bad For Your Health? What We Know

Valentine’s Day is a holiday associated with romantic gestures, the most popular being flowers and chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, many people love to indulge in this tasty treat.

But new research has put the spot light on potential issues with dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is known for being high in antioxidants, believed to be a healthier option compared to other types of chocolate.

However, according to new research from Consumer Reports, there are dark chocolate bars that contain high amounts of the heavy metals cadmium and lead, both of which can cause health issues.

Cadmium and lead in dark chocolate

Of the 28 dark chocolate bars researchers studied, they found these two heavy metals in all of them.

The amount of cadmium considered safe by health experts for is 4.1 ug/day and for lead it’s 0.5 ug/day. Scientists found that for 23 of the dark chocolate bars, consuming one ounce exceeded these daily amounts. And 5 of the bars contained higher levels for both heavy metals.

Due to the fact that cadmium and lead can cause developmental issues, exposure to these heavy metals poses the greatest risk for pregnant people and young children.

“Too much cadmium can damage the liver and kidneys,” Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD senior clinical dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, and author of RECIPE FOR SURVIVAL, told Healthline. “Therefore, whatever you can do to avoid or limit your intake to the best of your ability is recommended.”

As far as whether or not you should avoid dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day, experts say it’s okay if it’s a small portion size. Also, be mindful of what brands you choose.

While there are risks with certain types of dark chocolate, you don’t need to avoid it altogether, Tunde Akinleye, the CR food safety researcher who led this testing project, said in a statement.

He explained that while the majority of chocolate bars they tested had alarming levels of lead and/or cadmium, five of them were fairly low in the two heavy metals.

“That shows it’s possible for companies to make products with lower amounts of heavy metals—and for consumers to find safer products that they enjoy,” Akinleye added.

“If someone is not a heavy chocolate consumer, having some dark chocolate on Valentine’s Day, especially if it is limited to a 1-ounce serving, should be OK,” Hunnes stated. “I would suggest sticking with the brands that were tested to be lower and cadmium and lead though.”

Safer alternatives to enjoy this Valentine’s Day

Considering the health risks of certain dark chocolate bars, you may want to consider other options.

Consumer Reports said safer choices include Mast Organic dark chocolate, Taza chocolate, Ghiardelli and Valrhona.

“There are vegan ‘milk chocolates’ which would dilute the amount of cacao, and therefore theoretically lead and cadmium you would be taking in,” said Hunnes. “You could go for a special meal out, opt for different flavored treats, or do a special outing with your loved ones that don’t involve food at all.”


According to new research from Consumer Reports, many dark chocolate bars contain cadmium and lead, two heavy metals that can be harmful to your overall health.

Health experts explain it’s okay to eat dark chocolate on Valentine’s Day if it’s limited to a one-ounce serving. Also, choose a brand with lower lead and cadmium.

Safe brands include Mast Organic dark chocolate, Taza chocolate, Ghiardelli and Valrhona. Another healthier chocolate alternative you can enjoy is vegan ‘milk’ chocolate.