1 April 2014 Is Chocolate High in Caffeine?

Chocolate contains caffeine but not in especially high quantities compared to coffee or even black tea. Some websites report that there is no caffeine in chocolate, only another chemically similar stimulant, theobromine, but other sites claim that both exist. Chocolate companies and the United States Department of Agriculture provide both caffeine and theobromine content so my guess is that chocolate contains both.

Chocolate Types

In the U.S., the FDA has labeling requirements for “sweet chocolate” (must contain at least 15% cacao) and “bittersweet” (must contain at least 35% cacao). “Dark” has no legal meaning but some brands voluntarily display % cacao. The higher the cacao content, the higher the caffeine and theobromine content, as well as a higher flavonoid content. Flavonoids are the antioxidant polyphenols that appear to be so beneficial to our cardiovascular health.

Caffeine Content of Common Chocolates

To give you something to compare against, 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee contains about 80-110 mg caffeine whereas 1 cup of black tea contains about 50-65 mg caffeine depending upon type of tea and how long you brew it. Caffeine values reported here are from Caffeine Informer and Hershey's.

Ghirardelli 72% Cacao Twilight Delight (28g) = 36 mg caffeine
Ghirardelli 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie (28g) = 43 mg caffeine
Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses (9 pieces or 41g) = 9 mg caffeine
Hershey's Special Dark Kisses (9 pieces or 41g) = 20 mg caffeine
Hershey's Syrup (2 tbsp or 39g) = 5 mg caffeine
Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (2 tbsp or 10g) = 16 mg

Although chocolate is not particularly high in caffeine, if you tend to have insomnia and are sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to avoid chocolate, especially in the evening or at bedtime. It takes about 6 hours for your body to clear just half of the caffeine from your body. Theobromine is not supposed to affect alertness as keenly as caffeine, but since it is a stimulant that is found in quite high amounts in chocolate, keep that in mind if you tend to have trouble falling asleep after eating chocolate in the evening!

Chocolate & Weight Control

Chocolate is a delicious treat that has some health benefits but make no mistake, it is also very high in calories. About 1 oz (only 1/3 of a standard 90 gram bar) will typically contain about 150-180 calories. But if you are craving a delightful indulgence and are willing to portion control, then simply budget for the calories and enjoy both the flavor and health benefits!

And by the way, most high % cacao chocolates are modest in total carb content - a 1 oz portion usually contains only 1 carb choice or about 15 grams total carbs. That can fit on any diabetes meal plan as long as the calories also fit.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Chocolate Nutrients/Caffeine

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