Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Hershey's Chocolate Bad For You?

Also Known As: Hershey Bar, Hershey's Milk Chocolate



Short answer

Frequent consumption of Hershey's chocolate, which is high in added sugars and saturated fats, can pose health risks such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. While a single serving may not be detrimental, regular intake can contribute to health issues, especially if it replaces more nutritious options in the diet. Moderation and consideration of healthier, cocoa-rich alternatives are key for indulging while minimizing negative health impacts.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Sugar Content and Its Health Implications in Hershey's Chocolate

The sugar content in Hershey's chocolate varies depending on the specific product, but it's no secret that most varieties are high in added sugars. For example, a regular 43g Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar contains about 24 grams of sugar, which is a significant portion of the maximum recommended daily intake. The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams and women no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. A single chocolate bar, therefore, can approach or exceed these limits.

Elevated sugar intake can have various implications for health. Here are the key concerns:

  • Increased Risk of Obesity: High sugar foods are associated with weight gain, especially because they are often high in calories and can contribute to overeating.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Research, including a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, has linked high sugar diets with a greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Frequent sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance, and eventually type 2 diabetes, as indicated by multiple studies.
  • Dental Health: Sugars are fermentable carbohydrates which can be metabolized by bacteria in dental plaque, producing acids that may lead to tooth decay.
  • Inflammation: Excessive sugar intake may contribute to systemic inflammation, a pathway involved in the development of several chronic diseases.

It's also crucial to understand how the body processes the sugars in chocolate. Simple sugars are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, this pattern can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders.

For those concerned about their sugar intake, there are alternatives such as Hershey's Sugar-Free Chocolate, but it's important to note that these products may contain sugar alcohols, which can have their own health implications when consumed in large quantities, such as digestive discomfort or laxative effects. As with most sweets, moderation is key.

Consumers looking for healthier options might opt for dark chocolate with a higher cocoa content and less sugar. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants like flavonoids, which have been shown to have health benefits. A systematic review in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews reported that these compounds could help lower blood pressure and improve endothelial function.

Ultimately, while Hershey's chocolate can be a tasty treat, its sugar content warrants careful consideration due to the potential health implications. Staying educated on the added sugars in food products and adhering to recommended daily limits can help maintain overall health and reduce the risk of developing sugar-related health issues.

Saturated Fats in Hershey's Chocolate and Cardiovascular Risk

When it comes to the relationship between saturated fats and cardiovascular health, science has painted a multifaceted picture. Hershey's chocolate, like many chocolates, contains saturated fats which have been a point of contention among health experts. Understanding the effects of these fats on the heart is critical for informed dietary choices.

The saturated fat content in Hershey's chocolate originates from cocoa butter, which is the fat naturally found in cocoa beans, and often from the addition of milk ingredients in milk chocolate varieties. Saturated fats are known to raise levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease. However, cocoa butter contains a significant proportion of stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that, unlike others, does not appear to raise LDL cholesterol levels to the same degree.

A number of studies have looked into the impact of chocolate consumption on heart health, with a focus on the role of saturated fats:

  • A meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that moderate chocolate intake may be inversely associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The study emphasizes moderation and the distinction between chocolate with high cocoa content versus those high in sugars and fats (Mostofsky et al., 2017).
  • Research in the Journal of the American Heart Association highlighted that stearic acid behaves more like unsaturated fat when it comes to cholesterol levels, not leading to the same increase in LDL cholesterol as other saturated fats (Kris-Etherton & Mustad, 1994).

Despite the presence of stearic acid, Hershey's chocolate products can also contain other types of saturated fats from added milk ingredients and vegetable oils. These fats contribute to the total saturated fat content and can affect cardiovascular health if consumed in excess. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 6% of your total daily calories to help control your cholesterol.

It's important to consider portion sizes and the type of chocolate when evaluating the health impact. Dark chocolate generally contains less added sugar and milk ingredients, making it a better option for those concerned about saturated fat intake. In contrast, milk chocolate and products with additional fillers such as caramel or nougat substantially increase the saturated fat content beyond that of cocoa butter alone.

For individuals who have existing cardiovascular concerns, or who are working to manage their cholesterol levels, it's advisable to consume Hershey's chocolate in moderation and prefer choices that lean towards higher cocoa content and less added sugars and fats. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a dietitian is also recommended to tailor chocolate consumption to individual health needs and goals.

It is evident from research that while stearic acid in cocoa butter mitigates some of the concerns traditionally linked to saturated fats, chocolate consumption should still be balanced with other healthy lifestyle choices to support cardiovascular health. When indulging in chocolate, being mindful of the quantity and quality remains key.

Additives and Preservatives in Processed Chocolate

When it comes to processed chocolates like those produced by Hershey's, it's not just the primary ingredients that matter—sugar, milk, and cocoa—but also the additives and preservatives that might impact health. Let's delve deeper into the common additives and preservatives found in processed chocolate and explore their potential effects on our well-being.

Emulsifiers: Many processed chocolates include emulsifiers such as soy lecithin. These agents help blend ingredients that typically don't mix well together, like oil and water. According to a study published in the journal Food & Function, emulsifiers can alter gut microbiota, potentially leading to inflammation and a higher risk of chronic diseases. However, the concentration of emulsifiers in chocolate is usually very low, so the impact is likely to be minor for individuals without specific sensitivities.

Artificial Flavors: Artificial flavors are sometimes used to enhance the taste and aroma of chocolate products. While they are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there can be concerns about their long-term effects due to limited studies on chronic exposure. A natural alternative often used to enrich chocolate flavor is vanilla extract or vanillin, which is considered safe in small quantities.

Preservatives: Processed chocolates may contain preservatives to extend shelf life and maintain freshness. One such preservative is TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone), which has been linked to adverse effects in high doses in animal studies, such as stomach tumors in rats. However, these preservatives are used in tiny amounts that regulatory agencies deem safe for human consumption.

Sugar Alcohols and Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar-free chocolates often rely on sugar alcohols like maltitol or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose. These sugar substitutes can help reduce calorie content but may cause digestive discomfort in some people. For example, sugar alcohols have been associated with bloating, gas, and diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.

PGPR (Polyglycerol polyricinoleate): PGPR is added as a cheaper replacement for cocoa butter to improve the flow properties of chocolate. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluated PGPR and determined it as safe for human consumption, but some consumers may prefer chocolates without this synthetic additive for purity's sake.

In summary, while most of the additives and preservatives in processed chocolates are considered safe by food safety authorities, individual sensitivities and dietary restrictions should be considered. A balanced approach, with moderation in mind, can help mitigate any potential adverse effects associated with these chemical compounds. Being aware of the ingredients and making informed choices can allow you to enjoy chocolate's delightful taste without unnecessary health concerns.

The Quality of Ingredients Used in Hershey's Chocolate Products

When discussing the health implications of a product like Hershey's chocolate, evaluating the quality of ingredients is paramount. The ingredients list is fairly straightforward, typically including chocolate, sugar, dairy, and additional flavorings or additives. But it's not just the ingredients themselves; it's their sourcing, processing, and potential health impacts we need to consider.

The base ingredient in most Hershey's chocolate products is cocoa. The quality of cocoa can vary depending on the region it's sourced from and how it's processed. Hershey's sources cocoa from various locations and uses a mix of both fermented and unfermented beans. While fermentation can enhance flavor complexity and reduce bitterness, it also removes some of the natural antioxidants found in cocoa beans. To address concerns related to ethical sourcing, Hershey's has made commitments to responsible sourcing through initiatives like their 'Cocoa For Good' sustainability program. Nonetheless, the majority of their products do not carry a third-party certification like Fair Trade or Organic, which can often be an indicator of higher quality beans.

Sugar is the second key ingredient and serves as the primary sweetener in Hershey's products. The type of sugar used is generally refined white sugar, which can be associated with various negative health impacts when consumed in excess, such as an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Unlike some chocolates that use alternative sweeteners or less processed forms of sugar, Hershey's conventional products do not vary much in their sugar content or source.

Dairy products, such as milk or milk fat, are included in many of Hershey's offerings, particularly in their milk chocolate and filled products. The quality of the dairy depends greatly on the diet and treatment of the cows as well as the processing methods used. Hershey's does not specify the use of milk from organic or hormone-free cows, which may be a consideration for consumers concerned about the presence of antibiotics or growth hormones in milk.

The inclusion of additional flavorings and additives like lecithin (an emulsifier) or PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate, used to reduce viscosity) contribute to the final texture and taste of the product. These compounds are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA but have been subject to some debate regarding their necessity and potential health effects.

Overall, the quality of ingredients used in Hershey's chocolate products is typical of large-scale manufactured chocolates. Consumers looking for higher quality options might opt for products with certifications indicating organic or Fair Trade practices, less-processed forms of sugar, or clear declarations of non-GMO ingredients and the absence of artificial additives.

It's also important to mention that individuals with specific dietary restrictions or allergies should scrutinize Hershey's ingredients lists, as some products may contain soy, nuts, gluten, or other allergens. Furthermore, those with lactose intolerance or vegan dietary choices will find that many Hershey's products are not suitable due to the inclusion of dairy.

When considering the health impact of any food product, it's critical to review the quality of ingredients from a holistic perspective, taking into account not only their nutritional makeup but also their environmental and ethical implications.

Chocolate and Mental Health: A Double-Edged Sword

The relationship between chocolate and mental health is a complex one. On one hand, consuming chocolate has been associated with various mental health benefits. Specifically, chocolate contains compounds such as flavonoids and theobromine which have been linked to improved mood and cognitive function. However, on the other hand, there are potential downsides to consider, particularly when discussing widely available commercial chocolates, like those produced by Hershey's.

Benefits of Chocolate for Mental Health

  • Mood Enhancement: Chocolate is renowned for its ability to enhance mood. This is partly because it stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals. Additionally, chocolate has been found to increase serotonin levels, which can have an antidepressant effect.
  • Stress Reduction: Studies suggest that dark chocolate, in particular, may reduce stress. One clinical trial found that daily consumption of dark chocolate reduced levels of stress hormones in participants with high anxiety.
  • Cognitive Function: Research indicates that the flavonoids in chocolate can help improve blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function. This might be particularly beneficial for older individuals, aiding in tasks that require mental acuity.

While these benefits can be linked to the consumption of high-quality, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, commercially available products like those from Hershey's often contain lower amounts of these beneficial compounds. Also, they tend to have substantial amounts of sugars and fats that can outweigh the positives.

Downsides of Commercial Chocolate for Mental Health

  • Added Sugars: A high intake of added sugars, as found in many commercial chocolate products, is associated with a range of health issues, including poor mental health outcomes. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to higher rates of depression, mood swings, and even an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
  • Weight Gain and Self-Esteem: Chocolate, especially when consumed in large quantities, can contribute to weight gain. This can affect one's self-esteem and body image, potentially leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Energy Crashes: The high sugar content in products like Hershey's chocolate bars can lead to blood glucose spikes, followed by sudden drops, which may negatively affect mood and energy levels throughout the day.

Considering these points, it's apparent that the type and quantity of chocolate consumed are crucial in determining its effect on mental health. While a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate may offer benefits, the picture changes when the focus shifts to more processed and sugar-laden products. Therefore, moderation and the quality of chocolate are key when considering its impact on mental wellness.

Expert Perspectives

Health experts often advocate for moderation and choosing dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa to reap the potential mental health benefits. Registered dietitians and psychologists acknowledge the mood-boosting effects of chocolate but emphasize the importance of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle as a foundation for mental wellness.

In conclusion, while chocolate can offer some mental health advantages, it truly is a double-edged sword where the type of chocolate and the amount one consumes impact the potential benefits and risks. As with any food, the context within which it's consumed, the individual's overall dietary pattern, and the specific product in question make a significant difference.

Balance and Healthier Alternatives to Hershey's Chocolate

Indulging in chocolate can be a delightful experience, but moderation is key when it comes to consumption of products like Hershey's chocolate, which typically contain high levels of sugar and saturated fat. It's important to understand that while chocolates can fit into a balanced diet, relying on them as a primary source of daily snack can lead to long-term health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, and dental issues, particularly when they displace more nutritious snack options.

To maintain balance in your diet, consider these healthier alternatives that can satisfy your chocolate cravings without such a high cost to your health:

  • Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa or higher): Higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar, dark chocolate is a better alternative for those looking to satiate a sweet tooth with a product that also provides nutritional benefits. The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been associated with heart health.
  • Homemade Chocolate Treats: Creating your own chocolate snacks with quality ingredients enables you to control the sugar and fat content. Using cacao powder, nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners like dates or honey provides a healthier twist to your chocolate pleasures.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Fruit: Whether it’s strawberries, apple slices, or banana pieces, dipping fruit in chocolate can decrease the overall calorie intake while increasing your daily fruit consumption. Opt for dark or semi-sweet chocolate with lower sugar content.
  • Carob: A naturally sweet alternative to cocoa, carob is caffeine-free and can be used in a similar manner to cocoa in recipes. It offers a different taste that many enjoy and comes with its own health benefits, such as being a good source of fiber and calcium.
  • Cocoa Nibs: These are essentially unprocessed chocolate, which means they retain the antioxidant-rich qualities of the cocoa bean. They can be sprinkled on yogurt, smoothies, or oatmeal to add a chocolate flavor without the additional sugar and fats.

Consider also the variety of chocolates with added healthful ingredients like nuts, which can provide good fats and proteins, or chocolate bars with quinoa, amaranth, or other grains that add a crunch and increase the fiber content. These products provide more nutritional value compared to traditional milk chocolate bars.

Importantly, when choosing healthier alternatives, one should still focus on portion sizes. Even the healthier options can lead to Excess Energy Accumulation if consumed in large quantities. Savoring chocolate in small amounts can help satisfy cravings and can be part of a balanced diet when coupled with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity.

For those with specific dietary needs or restrictions looking for non-dairy or sugar-free options, the market offers a range of suitable substitutes. Some brands specialize in chocolates that use sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit to reduce the sugar content without sacrificing taste. These thoughtfully crafted health-oriented alternatives might be preferable for individuals managing diabetes, lactose intolerance, or other related health concerns.

When incorporating chocolate into a balanced diet, it's also crucial to examine the rest of your dietary intake to ensure it's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This ensures your body receives a wide spectrum of nutrients necessary for optimal health, rather than relying heavily on the empty calories and low nutritional density found in most commercial chocolate products.

Frequently asked questions

While chocolate contains mood-boosting chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, it is unlikely to cause true dependency. However, due to its pleasurable taste and feel-good properties, some individuals might develop a habit of consuming it as a coping mechanism, which can lead to overconsumption. Enjoy chocolate as an occasional treat rather than a regular emotional comfort food to maintain a balanced relationship with it.

Yes, the processing of cocoa beans, including fermentation, roasting, and alkalizing (also known as Dutch processing), can reduce the flavonoid content, which is responsible for much of the antioxidant benefits in chocolate. Seek out minimally processed chocolate, such as those labeled 'raw' or 'non-alkalized,' to retain more of the natural antioxidants found in cocoa beans.

Moderation is crucial for deriving health benefits from dark chocolate without overloading on calories, sugars, and fats. A general recommendation is to limit dark chocolate consumption to around 1 ounce (28 grams) per day, ensuring it has at least 70% cocoa content to maximize flavonoid intake. This allows you to enjoy the benefits while maintaining a balanced diet.

Hershey's Sugar-Free Chocolate may seem like a good alternative for those managing diabetes because it has a lower sugar content, but it contains sugar alcohols like maltitol, which can still have an impact on blood sugar levels. Additionally, sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues. Individuals with diabetes should consult with their healthcare provider to determine suitable chocolate options that align with their dietary management plan.

Ask a question about Hershey's Chocolate and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • rapid spikes in blood sugar
  • insulin levels increase
  • digestive discomfort from sugar alcohols
  • laxative effects
  • energy crashes
  • mood swings

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • tooth decay
  • systemic inflammation
  • cholesterol increases
  • insulin resistance
  • depression
  • mental health issues

Ingredients to be aware of


  • may enhance mood
  • can reduce stress
  • might improve cognitive function
  • potential to lower blood pressure
  • may improve endothelial function
  • contains antioxidants like flavonoids

Healthier alternatives

  • dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher)
  • homemade chocolate treats
  • chocolate-dipped fruit
  • carob
  • cocoa nibs
  • chocolates with nuts or whole grains

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

LILY'S Salted Almond Chocolate

  • No added sugar
  • Gluten-free treat
  • Individually wrapped
  • Milk chocolate style
  • Bulk pack convenience
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-30-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-30-2023

Random Page

Check These Out!