Whether wanting to let that Special Someone know just how sweet they are on Valentine's Day, or you're filling someone's Easter basket, or you simply need to get your own chocolate fix on, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you get the healthiest chocolate available (yes, Healthy Chocolate!). Research has shown chocolate to possess a number of good-for-you benefits, including supporting heart health, aiding in weight loss (seriously!) and improving mood. But it does matter which chocolate you choose—don't reach for the mini-market candy bar selection. Know what to look for in a healthy chocolate? Check out these tips:
Go Dark: Research shows that the benefits of chocolate are most effective when the cacao content is at least 70 percent. The antioxidants become drastically reduced as the cacao content goes down, diminishing the healthy properties. If the packaging doesn't indicate the cacao content—even if it claims to be dark chocolate—chances are it's only in the 50 percent range. Look for pure dark chocolate products like Fearless's 70 percent Matcha Green Tea Peppermint Cacao Bar. Not only do they use fresh cacao beans, but they don't heat them either, leaving the most vital nutrients and antioxidants intact.
Organic: Nothing ruins a good chocolate high like realizing you're also guzzling chemicals and genetically modified organisms. Choosing organic is not only a smart move for your health, but you support the health of farmers who can avoid the health risks of the gnarly pesticides and fertilizers, and you support the health of the environment by keeping soil, water and air unpolluted.
No Corn Syrup: When explorers visiting Mexico first discovered cacao, it wasn't in a handful of candy-coated M&M's. It was most often consumed as an unsweetened hot drink (and the beans were also being used as money!). Once the Dark Master made its way back to Europe, the fixation with sugar found its way into cacao bean products leading to our current "candy" industry. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a little sweetness now and then, but make sure you're getting natural and organic sugars. Corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn and has been linked to obesity and type II diabetes.
Keep it Simple: Gooey centers are hard to resist, especially since they're so prevalent in the chocolate industry, but if your goal is a Healthy Chocolate Experience, then it's best to stick with a pure dark chocolate or one with minimal flavors (such as mint). The addition of nougats, crèmes and other fillings means two things: 1) less chocolate—which is where the health benefits are and 2) more exposure to sugars and other ingredients that can offset the benefits of the cacao, even if you're getting a really dark "coating." Opt for a bar like Theo's Organic and Fair Trade Dark 70 percent cacao.
Make it Fair: While what a farmer or worker gets paid doesn't necessarily affect your physical health, it can do wonders for your spirit. Cacao is mostly grown in developing nations and conflict regions. Much of the conventionally raised cacao is connected with unfair wages and even slave labor. So look for Fair Trade certified cacao products to ensure your purchases help to build a sustainable industry that supports fair, livable wages and proper treatment of everyone involved.
Image: By jwannie
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