Here are three that you may have seen. Remember that the benefits from flavanols in scientific studies usually occur only at doses of 200 milligrams or more per day.
Mars Inc. gave up trying to market flavanol-rich chocolate candy as a health food in 2009. These days it sells cocoa flavanols as dietary supplements.
“To get the higher level of flavanols that we know to be efficacious,” says the company’s Catherine Kwik-Uribe, “we offer consumers choices of products that are more nutritionally responsible.”
That would be Mars’ line of CocoaVia capsules and powders.
Each serving (two capsules or one packet of powder) contains 250 milligrams of cocoa flavanols. The capsules have 5 calories and cost $1.00 a serving. The powder—Mars recommends that you mix it into coffee, milk, yogurt, oatmeal, or protein shakes—has 30 calories and costs $1.33 a serving. (The powder contains cocoa that has been processed with alkali, but Mars adds a cocoa extract and guarantees that each packet delivers 250 mg of flavanols.)
“Get all the natural health benefits of raw cocoa without feeling any of the guilt,” says mail-order/online marketer Swanson about its raw cocoa.
According to the label, each capsule contains 400 milligrams of cacao (cocoa). But that means less than 400 mg of flavanols.
How much less? The label doesn’t say, since flavanol levels “may vary from batch to batch,” according to the company. (“We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause,” Swanson told us in an e-mail.)
If Swanson’s (or any other company’s) raw cocoa is anything like Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, the recommended dose (one to two capsules a day) would provide just 9 mg or 18 mg of flavanols. Cost? Five or ten cents a day, about 10 times what you’d pay for the same amount of a grocery-store cocoa powder like Hershey’s or Nestlé Toll House.
Cocoa Science bars are organic and made from sustainably grown fair-trade beans, says the company. That’s great. But each bar also has more calories (240) than a similar-size Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar (210).
Why does the label list just 120 calories per serving? CocoaWell uses a ¾ oz. half-bar serving (instead of chocolate’s 1½ oz.) by calling itself a “dietary supplement” rather than a food.
What do you get in the way of cocoa flavanols for your 240 calories? The label lists only about 6 mg from an added cocoa extract. (The bar’s “Pure Plant Flavanol Complex” provides about 80 mg of flavanols from tea and the herb catechu, not cocoa.)
As for the amount of flavanols in the bar’s main ingredient, chocolate: “We currently do not test for flavanols,” CocoaWell said in an e-mail, because “naturally occurring levels may vary.”