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.