Chocolate Side Effects and Benefits

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 01/02/23 •  12 min read

What are chocolate benefits? Side effects? Is chocolate vegan? Gluten free? Acidic or alkaline? Low fodmap? Good for you? Healthy? Sustainable? Here is all the info on chocolate that every ethical consumer wants to know…

chocolate benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on chocolate side effects and benefits.

You are going to learn all about chocolate side effects and benefits. This will include chocolate side effects for your health and potential risks, chocolate water footprint and chocolate carbon footprint, chocolate sustainability, if chocolate is vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if chocolate is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about chocolate side effects and benefits that every ethical consumer should know.

Chocolate Side Effects and Benefits


Chocolate benefits (pure, in moderation) may include:

Chocolate side effects may include:

Additionally, pure chocolate (without sugar, not including milk chocolate, candy, etc.) is…

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Water footprint: high, it takes 10,014 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of chocolate / 1,200 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of chocolate

Carbon footprint: high, forests cleared for cacao farming are ones that are the best carbon sinks and sources of biodiversity, cacao trees thrive in rain forests, where there’s plenty of humidity and rain, stable temperatures, rich soil, and protection from strong winds, this combined makes chocolate one of the worst foods in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, chocolate has a relatively high carbon footprint

Destruction: moderate, chocolate production is relatively destructive, heavy deforestation, farmers cut down older trees in order to clear room for cacao plants

Pure chocolate (without sugar, not including milk chocolate, candy, etc.) is…


Kills: none, chocolate production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, chocolate production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from chocolate production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Pure chocolate (without sugar, not including milk chocolate, candy, etc.) is…


Health and safety: hazardous, child trafficking is common, parents who cannot afford children sell them to employers, adult and child workers are exposed to toxic chemicals and pesticides and use sharp machetes that cause accidents leading to cuts, wounds and scars on their bodies

Living conditions: poor, reports of 2 million children subjected to child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast (the Ivory Coast produces more than a third of the world’s cocoa and over 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa comes from the two countries), children do not receive much food, wear old, worn clothing, usually never attend school, must work long hours

Wages: low, earnings are less than a few dollars per day, below-poverty wages, wages are so low adult workers do not want the jobs which forces employers to purchase trafficked children, child labor pays nothing to child workers, communities are caught in a cycle of poverty from being deprived of education

Pure chocolate (without sugar, not including milk chocolate, candy, etc.) has…

Where does most chocolate come from?

The world’s top chocolate exporting country is Germany, followed by Canada, USA, Belgium, UK, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, France.
Around 70% of the world’s cocoa beans come from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two largest producers of cocoa, accounting for more than 50% of the world’s cocoa.

Is chocolate nutritious?

Quality dark chocolate contains fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and antioxidants. For health be sure to avoid chocolate with added milk and too much sugar!

Is chocolate acidic or alkaline?

Is chocolate acidic or alkaline?

Chocolate is acidic.

What is the pH level of chocolate?

Chocolate has a 5.5 pH level once digested.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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Is chocolate low fodmap?

Is chocolate low fodmap?

Yes, chocolate is low fodmap, but a food you should limit eating chocolate to 1/2 ounce to 3 ounces per serving if on a low fodmap diet. 

A low FODMAP diet may help those with bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

It’s all about knowing your body. Observe what works and what doesn’t. You body might even react negatively to a low-FODMAP food simply due to intolerance. Everyone is different! Be mindful and patient. Take time to get to know what’s best for your physical health and overall wellbeing.

See this High FODMAP and Low FODMAP List of Foods

Is chocolate gluten free?

Is chocolate gluten free?

Yes, pure chocolate is gluten free. Pure chocolate does not contain gluten but flavored chocolate may contain gluten. Pure chocolate is roasted and ground cacao seeds, therefore making it a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include: recurring abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, tingling, numbness in hands and feet, chronic fatigue, joint pain, unexplained infertility and low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis).

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

Is chocolate a common food allergen?

Is chocolate a common food allergen?

No, pure chocolate is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to pure chocolate but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods is often referred to as the Big-8 and includes milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. 

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

Water footprint of chocolate?

Water footprint of chocolate?

Chocolate has a relatively high water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of chocolate?

It takes 10,014 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of chocolate / 1,200 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of chocolate.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource? Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Carbon footprint of chocolate?

Carbon footprint of chocolate?

Chocolate has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating product emissions, some factors that may be included are… farm equipment, animal feed production, hothouses (greenhouses), food processing, packaging, transport, refrigeration, freezing, package waste, and more.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Is chocolate sustainable?

Is chocolate sustainable?

Chocolate production is relatively sustainable since there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy non GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc. when using regenerative practices.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

Is chocolate vegan?

Is chocolate vegan?

Yes, pure chocolate is vegan. Chocolate is roasted and ground cacao seeds and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. However, milk is often added to chocolate, making it not vegan.

Animals of factory farms and the livestock industry are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. They’re also injected with growth hormones to become fatter faster and live short lives, being slaughtered as soon as they finish growing and are killed prematurely, well before their natural lifespan.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

Does chocolate have human rights issues?

Does chocolate have human rights issues?

Yes. At this time there are major concerns associated with chocolate production. It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may be associated with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even be subjected to harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment has been likened to modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

This post was all about chocolate benefits and side effects.


Harvard, The Nutrition Source, Dark Chocolate

International labor rights forum: The chocolate industry has a century-long history of forced and child labor in the production of cocoa

Global Citizen: The 6 Worst Foods To Buy If You Care About Humanity

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

Foodprint: Labor and Workers in the Food System

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.