Posted by on June 2, 2017

More than just delicious, chocolate is downright healthy. It’s loaded with antioxidants, contains iron, zinc, magnesium, copper and vitamin C. Chocolate can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce our stress hormone, cortisol, increase serotonin (our brain’s happy chemical), and can even help protect against cardio vascular disease.

“A few squares of dark chocolate a day can reduce the risk of death from heart attack by almost 50% in some cases.”- Diane Becker, MPH, ScD, researcher with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

But let’s be real, this doesn’t mean your Snickers bar is good for you. When it comes to the healthiest chocolate, the higher percentage of cacao the better.

What’s cacao? The Theobroma cacao ( ‘food of the Gods’tree  produces a large fruit called cacao (click here to hear how it’s pronounced) that grows in the shape of a pod. Inside the pods are brown seeds (you can see the brown seeds in the pod on the right in the picture below).

Code.monk on Flickr @Creative Commons

Cacao seeds look a lot like coffee beans, which is why they are commonly referred to as cacao “beans.” All that yummy chocolate we love is derived from cacao beans.

Irene Scott for AusAid on Flickr @Creative Commons

Chocolate aficionados have undoubtedly heard that “raw” chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate. Raw chocolate means the cacao beans were minimally processed and not heated above 108 – 118 degrees Fahrenheit. There is some debate about whether raw chocolate can be considered raw when the beans are processed and exposed to heat. Having said that, cacao beans must be processed and minimally processed is better than heavily processed and exposed to high temperatures, which destroys all the health benefits.

Setting aside the debate about whether raw actually means raw, you can’t go wrong with 100% raw cacao or cacao nibs (bits of the cacao bean). But be warned, 100% cacao can taste BITTER! This is why chocolatiers add sugar. If you want all the health benefits of chocolate, but not the bitterness, buy a bar that is at least 70% cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the less sugar and other additives in your chocolate.

If you’re trying to eliminate or avoid cane sugar, there are some chocolate manufacturers using alternatives sweeteners like Yacon root, maple and coconut blossom sugar. See the list below for some options.

A few terms to know when you’re searching for healthy chocolate: USDA certified organic (this means it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals), fair trade (farmers are paid a fair wage), single-sourced or single-origin (harvested from one region), minimally processed, and bean-to-bar (every step of the chocolate making process is completed by the chocolate maker from selecting the bean to making the bars).

Not sure where to start? Here are a few choices:

100% CACAO – NON SWEETENED CHOCOLATE 
Pacari (means “nature” in Quechua)
BAR: Raw 100%
PACARI GOOD STUFF: organic, biodynamic, kosher, fair trade, single region, single-origin (100% Ecuadorian), raw, dairy free, gluten free, soy free, vegan
LOCATION: Ecuador
PRICE: $5.50 (1.76 oz)

Akesson’s
BAR: 100% Criollo Cocoa Chocolate
AKESSON’S GOOD STUFF: organic and bean-to-bar
LOCATION: Notting Hill, London & Schulenburg, TX
PRICE:  $11.99 U.S. (2.12 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 Great Taste Award; 2016 Academy of Chocolate Award: Gold. 2016 International Chocolate Award, Best Bar Over 85%: Silver

Antidote 100 plus dates_cor1Antidote
BAR: Raw 100% Cacao with bits of dates ANTIDOTE GOOD STUFF: vegan, gluten free, kosher, made with biologic cacao (no pesticides), bean-to-bar, most of their bars are organic, non GMO, committed to sustainability
LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY
PRICE: $8.50 (2.3 oz)
NOTE: They have other bars including 73% Coffee & Cardamom and Banana & Cayenne

SWEETENED, BUT NOT WITH CANE SUGAR

1480691476057Nohmad Snack Co.
BAR: Sprouted Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt 74% Cacao & Extra Dark 85% Cacao
NOHMAD GOOD STUFF: organic, Paleo and vegan friendly, raw, bean-to-bar, gluten-free, soy-free, no refined sugar, sustainably sourced, non-GMO
SWEETENED WITH: maple sugar
LOCATION: Torrance, CA
PRICE: $7.50 (2.25 oz)

Starchild Chocolate 
BAR: 70% Tanzania, Kokoa Kamili
STARCHILD GOOD STUFF: hand crafted, bean-to-bar, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, non-GMO
SWEETENED WITH: organic unrefined coconut sugar
LOCATION: Mendocino county, CA
PRICE:  $7.00 (1.75 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 International Chocolate Award (Americas): Bronze and 2016 International Chocolate Award (USA): Silver

Pacari (means “nature” in Quechua)
BAR: Andean Mint, Andean Rose, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass
PACARI GOOD STUFF: organic, biodynamic, kosher, fair trade, single region, single-origin (100% Ecuadorian), raw, dairy free, gluten free, soy free, vegan
SWEETENED WITH: coconut sugar
LOCATION: Ecuador
PRICE: $5.50 (1.76 oz)
AWARDS: The Andean Mint bar won Gold at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards and the Andean Rose, Lemon Verbena, and Lemongrass bars each won Silver at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards

narrow-Yacon_front_largeRaaka
BAR: Yacon (79% cacao) + other options including Ghost Pepper (try at your own risk!)
RAAKA GOOD STUFF: organic, cask-aged cocoa beans, vegan, soy free, nut free, gluten free, fair trade, sustainable practices, bean-to-bar
SWEETENED WITH: Yacón, a root vegetable from the Peruvian Andes, other bars sweetened with organic maple and cane sugar
LOCATION: Brooklyn, New York
PRICE:  $7.95 (1.8 oz)

Labooko_MediumRaw75Zotter
BAR: Medium Raw 75%  contains acai, matcha green tea powder, chlorella algae, reishi mushrooms and maca
ZOTTER GOOD STUFF: organic, bean-to-bar, fair trade, single-origin, sustainable practices, gluten free, vegan, dairy free (unique chocolate wrappers)
SWEETENED WITH: coconut blossom sugar (other bars have raw cane sugar)
U.S. LOCATION: Cape Coral, Florida
PRICE: $5.95 (2.47 oz)
AWARDS: They won 2 gold, 8 silver, and 5 bronze awards at the 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards in London
NOTE: They sell 82% & 100% cacao chocolate bars as well

eatingEVOLVED – “Chocolate: It’s Food, Not Candy”
BAR:
Almond Sea Salt
EATING EVOLVED GOOD STUFF: organic, fair trade, soy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, single-origin, Paleo friendly
SWEETENED WITH: organic coconut sugar
LOCATION: Setauket, NY
PRICE: $4.99 (2.5 oz)

SWEETENED WITH ORGANIC CANE SUGAR 

Hummingbird Chocolate
BAR: Hispaniola 70% Cacao
HUMMINGBIRD GOOD STUFF: organic, single origin, fair trade, cacao grown sustainably, bean-to-bar, vegan, gluten and soy free
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Ontario, Canada
PRICE: $7.99 (2.1 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 Academy of Chocolates’ Golden Bean Award & 2015 International Chocolate Awards (World): Silver

Dick Taylor Chocolate
BAR: 72% Belize, Toledo
DICK TAYLOR GOOD STUFF: bean-to-bar, hand crafted, organic cacao
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Eureka, CA
PRICE: $8.50 (2 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 International Chocolate Awards (Americas): Bronze and 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards: Bronze

askstamp

Askinosie Chocolate
BAR:
72% Mababu, Tanzania Dark Chocolate Bar
ASKINOSIE GOOD STUFF: kosher, single origin, fair trade, non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, soy free
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Springfield, MO
PRICE: $8.50 (3 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 Academy of Chocolates’ Golden Bean Award: Silver 

Fruition Chocolate 
BAR: Maranon Canyon Dark 76% & Maranon Canyon Dark Milk 68%
FRUITION GOOD STUFF: hand crafted, bean-to-bar, fair trade, organic beans, made from exclusive Pure Nacional cocoa beans from the remote Maranon Canyon of Peru
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Shokan (in the Catskill Mountains), NY
PRICE: $12.95 (2.11 oz)
AWARDS: The Maranon Canyon Dark bar won the 2015 ChocoFiles Bar of Excellence Award. The Maranon Canyon Dark Milk won the 2015 & 2016 International Chocolate Awards (World): Gold and a 2017 Good Foods Award

Ritual
BAR: Mid Mountain Blend 70%
RITUAL GOOD STUFF: organic beans when available, bean-to-bar, no soy, non-GMO
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Park City, Utah
PRICE: $10.00 (2.2 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 Good Food Award; 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards: Gold

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Patric Chocolate
BAR: 67% Madagascar Dark
PATIC GOOD STUFF: organic ingredients, no soy, fair trade, non-GMO, devoted to sustainability—they donate coca shell waste as mulch to local farmers. Their packaging is made from 30% recycled material.
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Columbia, MO
PRICE: $12.00 (2.3 oz)
AWARDS: Winner of 15 Good Food Awards (2011- 2016)

 Nathan Miller Chocolate
BAR: 70% Ghana
NATHAN MILLER GOOD STUFF: bean-to-bar, single origin, fair trade, some organic ingredients, handcrafted
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
LOCATION: Chambersburg, PA
PRICE: $8.00 (2 oz)
AWARDS: 2015 Good Food Award


Dandelion Chocolate
BAR:
Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania 70%
DANDELION GOOD STUFF: artisan, bean-to-bar, hand made, sustainable practices, single-sourced, fair wages, no soy
SWEETENED WITH: organic sugar cane
LOCATION: San Francisco, CA
PRICE: $8.00 (2 oz)
AWARD: 2016 Academy of Chocolates’ Golden Bean Award for Dark Bean to Bar Under 80%: Silver

Order Chocolate Online
If you can’t find these bars in your area, you can order them online.

Learn More
International Chocolate Awards – “World Final Winners 2016”
Good Food Awards
Academy of Chocolate Awards
Great Taste Awards 
Chicago Sun Times – “The Sweet Truth: Chocolate really can be good for you”
Livestrong.com – “Health Benefits of Raw Cacao Nibs”
Fooducate – “What is Soy Lecithin and Why is it Found in so Many Products?

Feature image courtesy of Sarah Robinson on Flickr @Creative Commons

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