How Different Levels of Cacao and Sweeteners in Dark Chocolate Affect Blood Sugar?

Dark chocolate has gained a reputation as a relatively healthy treat due to its antioxidant and mineral content. However, the healthfulness of dark chocolate can vary greatly depending on the amount of cacao and added sweeteners. In this experiment, I tested how different levels of cacao and types of sweeteners used in dark chocolate impact blood sugar when eaten for breakfast.

200-calorie portion of various dark chocolate

I ate a 200-calorie portion of various dark chocolate products every morning for four days on an empty stomach. I used a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) from Levels to track my blood sugar response for 2 hours after consuming each chocolate.

Levels assigns each food a score from 1-10 based on the intensity of the initial blood sugar spike and stability over time. A score of 10 indicates the best response.

I compared chocolates with cacao percentages of 72%, 86%, 92% and 100%. I also tested a dark chocolate sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners. All chocolates were from the Ghirardelli brand, except the sugar-free bar which was Skinny Me.

72% Cacao Chocolate

The 72% dark chocolate contains cane sugar as the second ingredient after chocolate liquor. Of all the chocolates, it caused the highest initial blood sugar spike. My Levels score was only 4 out of 10.

The high sugar content led to this unhealthy elevation in blood glucose despite having over 70% cacao.

86% Cacao Chocolate

In the 86% cacao chocolate, cocoa butter moves above sugar in the ingredients list, indicating less sugar and more fat compared to the 72% bar.

Because dietary fat has little impact on blood sugar, while carbohydrates cause spikes, I expected an improved response.

Indeed, the 86% chocolate caused a more gradual rise and received a Levels score of 7 out of 10. The additional cocoa butter and milk fat blunted the blood sugar impact compared to the high-sugar 72% bar.

92% Cacao Chocolate

The 92% dark chocolate contains almost the same ingredients as the 86%, with only a minor swap in the order of “natural flavor” and “vanilla extract.”

With slightly fewer carbs and more fat than the 86%, I predicted an even better blood sugar response.

The 92% chocolate produced a stable blood sugar curve and the best Levels score so far of 8 out of 10.

100% Cacao Chocolate

The 100% cacao chocolate contains only one ingredient: unsweetened chocolate. I expected this to perform the best due to having no added sugar.

Surprisingly, it scored a 5 out of 10, on par with the high-sugar 72% bar. It caused a similar moderate spike in blood glucose.

While not ideal for blood sugar, 100% cacao likely provides the most antioxidants and minerals. The intense bitterness made it difficult to consume. It may be best to use in small amounts in recipes rather than eating it straight.

The 100% cacao contained more carbohydrates than expected based on the nutrition label. The discrepancy between calories and macros warrants further investigation.

Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate

Finally, I tested a “Skinny Me” dark chocolate sweetened with sugar substitutes like erythritol and stevia rather than cane sugar.

It scored a 7 out of 10 for blood sugar, similar to the 86% bar. However, the cacao percentage is unknown, so it may not provide the same health benefits as higher percentages.

The added fiber likely slowed carbohydrate absorption. Overall, this bar-controlled blood sugar decently while providing sweetness.

What produces most stable blood sugar response

Based on the Levels scores, the 92% cacao chocolate produced the most stable blood sugar response. It combines a high amount of cacao with a touch of sweetness that does not stimulate appetite.

While 100% cacao likely provides the most antioxidants, the bitterness and carb content made it less ideal for blood sugar control. Sugar-free chocolate bars can help tame cravings while avoiding blood sugar spikes.

These tests demonstrate the importance of considering cacao percentage and ingredients when selecting dark chocolate. Aim for at least 70% cacao content with sugar not high on the ingredients list for the healthiest treat.

Workout and Fitness News

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.