How To Have a Healthy Chocolate Addiction

Chocolate is more than just delicious. It’s downright healthy. It’s loaded with antioxidants, and it contains iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, and vitamin C. Chocolate can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce cortisol levels, (our stress hormone), increase serotonin (our brain’s happy chemical), and can even help protect against cardiovascular 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,  which 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 being 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 around 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:

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

BAR: 100% Criollo Cocoa Chocolate
AKESSON’S GOOD STUFF: organic and bean-to-bar
MADE IN: 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’S 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
MADE IN: Brooklyn, NY
PRICE: $8.50 (2.3 oz)
NOTE: They make other bars, including 73% Coffee & Cardamom and Banana & Cayenne


1480691476057Nohmad Snack Co.
BAR: Sprouted Almonds & Smoked Sea Salt 74% Cacao & Extra Dark 85% Cacao
NOHMAD’S 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
MADE IN: Torrance, CA
PRICE: $7.50 (2.25 oz)

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

BAR: Andean Mint, Andean Rose, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass
PACARI’S 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
MADE IN: Ecuador
PRICE: $5.50 (1.76 oz)
AWARDS: The Andean Mint bar won Gold at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards; the Andean Rose, Lemon Verbena, and Lemongrass bars each won Silver at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards

BAR: Yacon (79% cacao) + other options, including Ghost Pepper (try at your own risk!)
RAAKA’S 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
MADE IN: Brooklyn, New York
PRICE:  $7.95 (1.8 oz)

BAR: Medium Raw 75%,  contains acai, matcha green tea powder, chlorella algae, reishi mushrooms and maca
ZOTTER’S GOOD STUFF: organic, bean-to-bar, fair trade, single-origin, sustainable practices, gluten free, vegan, dairy free, plus they have unique chocolate wrappers!
SWEETENED WITH: coconut blossom sugar (other bars have raw cane sugar)
MADE IN: 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”
Almond Sea Salt
EATING EVOLVED’S GOOD STUFF: organic, fair trade, soy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, single-origin, paleo friendly
SWEETENED WITH: organic coconut sugar
MADE IN: Setauket, NY
PRICE: $4.99 (2.5 oz)


Hummingbird Chocolate
BAR: Hispaniola 70% Cacao
HUMMINGBIRD’S GOOD STUFF: organic, single origin, fair trade, cacao grown sustainably, bean-to-bar, vegan, gluten and soy free
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
MADE IN: 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’S GOOD STUFF: bean-to-bar, hand crafted, organic cacao
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
MADE IN: Eureka, CA
PRICE: $8.50 (2 oz)
AWARDS: 2016 International Chocolate Awards (Americas): Bronze and 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards: Bronze


Askinosie Chocolate
72% Mababu, Tanzania Dark Chocolate Bar
ASKINOSIE’S GOOD STUFF: kosher, single origin, fair trade, non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, soy free
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
MADE IN: 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’S 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
MADE IN: 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

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

logo copy

Patric Chocolate
BAR: 67% Madagascar Dark
PATIC’S GOOD STUFF: organic ingredients, no soy, fair trade, non-GMO, devoted to sustainability—they donate cocao shell waste as mulch to local farmers. Their packaging is made from 30% recycled material.
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
MADE IN: 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’S GOOD STUFF: bean-to-bar, single origin, fair trade, some organic ingredients, handcrafted
SWEETENED WITH: organic cane sugar
MADE IN: Chambersburg, PA
PRICE: $8.00 (2 oz)
AWARDS: 2015 Good Food Award

Dandelion Chocolate
Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania 70%
DANDELION’S GOOD STUFF: artisan, bean-to-bar, hand made, sustainable practices, single-sourced, fair wages, no soy
SWEETENED WITH: organic sugar cane
MADE IN: 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 from the makers’ websites. Enjoy!

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” – “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


A Healthy Diet Is Simple
Remember when an apple a day kept the doctor away? Maybe it still can.

Back in the day, our grandmothers made food from scratch. Today, most of us eat food made by food manufactures. While that’s really convenient, the downside is it’s often loaded with additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients, fat, salt, too much sugar, and “natural” made-in-a-lab flavor. Yet true health and proper nutrition requires that we avoid overly processed food containing ingredients we can’t pronounce. A healthy diet is simple. Really simple. Here’s a guide to help you figure out which foods to avoid and which foods to buy to keep your body healthy and strong.


Sugar and artificial sweeteners6861897600_a8d77b0f9d_o
Read food labels carefully because sugar and sugar substitutes show up in strange places, like soup, deli meat, chicken stock, salad dressing, and in many of those “healthy” protein bars. Start by cutting sugar out of places it doesn’t belong and choose natural sweeteners, like raw honey and dates, instead of sugar.


Most humans stop producing the enzyme (lactase) necessary to digest the main sugar (lactose) in milk by age five. When someone is lactose intolerant, the undigested sugar sits in their colon and begins to ferment. It can cause a whole range of unpleasant digestive issues, such as bloating, cramping, and/or diarrhea.

Technically speaking, we aren’t meant to drink milk as adults. The fact that some can is considered a genetic mutation.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk. – ABC News

If you’re lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive, limit dairy or better yet, avoid it completely. Nut milks (such as almond or cashew) are great non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk. If you choose to go with a nut milk, make sure it’s carrageenan free. Carrageenan has been linked with gastrointestinal inflammation.

In addition to lactose, some people are sensitive to a protein in milk called casein. Casein can trigger inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to sinus congestion, acne, rashes, and migraines.

There are some concerns that a diet high in calcium from cow’s milk (this includes cheese) may increase the risk of prostate cancer. That should be reason enough to avoid it.

Goat’s milk is a healthier alternative to cow’s milk because it contains less lactose, which can make it easier to digest, and it has fewer allergenic proteins. But goat’s milk has a much stronger flavor.

If you drink milk, make sure it’s USDA certified organic, and free of hormones and antibiotics.


If you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, IBS, or digestive issues, obviously avoid wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye).

If you can tolerate grains, but you want something healthier, try organic ancestral or heirloom grains, like farro (which is either einkorn, spelt, or emmer), kamut, or Turkey Red wheat. U.S. wheat has been hybridized and it isn’t quite as nutritious as the wheat our grandmothers ate. Give some new and unusual grains a try because they tend to be much more delicious and nutritious.

Beans and legumes
If you have serious digestive issues, such as IBS, bloating, gas, or any kind of digestive pain, you may want to limit or avoid beans and legumes because they can be difficult to digest. Tip: if you soak beans overnight, they are a little easier to digest.

Artificial colors
Artificial colors like red #40, yellow #5, and yellow #6 contain benzidine, a likely carcinogen for both humans and animals. There is evidence linking food dyes to behavioral problems, including hyperactivity in some children. Foods that contain artificial colors must contain warning labels in Europe, but not in the U.S. Be sure to read labels if you want to avoid them.

Avoid plastic – both BPA (Bisphenol-A) and BPA-free
What does plastic have to do with a healthy diet? Most of our food and water is packaged in plastic. And research shows that the harmful, estrogen-like chemicals found in plastic can leech out of containers and into our food and water, especially when really hot or cold. Research from the University of Texas at Arlington found that BPA “could well contribute to [breast cancer] tumor growth.”

BPA­-free (or BPS) isn’t much better. BPS may harm brain function and reproductive development in fetuses, infants, and children. If you have to use plastic, do not expose it to hot or cold temperatures. Use glass food storage containers and drink water out of glass bottles. Avoid canned food, even if it says BPA-­free on the label (BPS may be just as harmful as BPA).

Junk food and overly processed food 
Avoid eating fast food and prepared or frozen food that contains too many artificial ingredients.

Regular table sale
Instead of using regular table salt, go pink! Pink Himalayan salt is minimally processed, doesn’t contain additives or anti­caking agents, and has more trace minerals than regular salt, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Himalayan salt has a little less sodium than table salt, too. Celtic salt is another good option.

Fish that isn’t wild-caught or sustainably farmed

Large fish, such as tuna (including tunafish), ahi, swordfish, orange roughy and king mackerel because they’re high in mercury (see NRDC’s The Smart Seafood Buying Guide or the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Seafood)

Meat that isn’t organic

Red meat (limit it to a few times a month or avoid it entirely)

Gluten (if you have digestive issues)

Dairy (if you have digestive issues)

Sugar and artificial or processed sweeteners

Grains (if you have digestive issues)

Bean and legumes (if you have digestive issues)

Fried Food

Processed Food

Artificial ingredients

“Natural” flavoring as opposed to natural food flavor

Anything you can’t pronounce

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) because they are typically sprayed with harmful pesticides/herbicides

Soy or corn that isn’t organic (both are in a lot of processed and prepared food) because they could be GMO crops sprayed with toxic pesticides or herbicides

Anything packaged in plastic

Cans lined with BPA

Fruit and veggies that aren’t organic (or aren’t on the EWG’s list of “Clean 15”)

This list may seem extreme, but the average American grocery store is full of food that contains ingredients we can’t pronounce, additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients, food with cancer-causing pesticide residue, too much sugar, salt, and fat. How extreme is that?


USDA certified organic, biodynamic, or regenerative 4colorsealJPG

When you commit to buying from local farmers that use USDA certified organic, biodynamic, or regenerative farming practices, you reduce the amount of toxic chemicals sprayed on our food and the environment (which impacts butterflies, birds, and bees). You also support healthy soil, the humane treatment of animals, the health of the people who pick our food, the local economy, and the reduction of chemicals in our water supply.

When you buy organic, biodynamic, or regenerative food, you say no to GMO crops and the toxic chemicals that are often sold with them. (For example, Monsanto’s Roundup-ready crops are genetically modified to withstand Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup.) But buying organic is about so much more than pesticides. It’s about supporting a healthy world. If you do one thing for your health and the health of the environment, buy USDA certified organic, biodynamic, or Regenerative Organic Certified food from small, local farmers.

Wild-caught or sustainably farmed small fish (large fish have high levels of mercury) and seafood (see Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Recommendations)

Organic chicken or turkey (if you eat meat)

Organic fruit

Organic veggies

Organic nuts

Organic raw honey or dates as sweeteners

Organic herbs and spices

Organic eggs

Bottled or filtered water in glass bottles, not plastic

Extra virgin olive oil

Pink Himalayan salt

Organic herbal teas

Ancestral or heirloom grains (if you eat grains)

Organic legumes

If you want a diet to follow, The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent and well-researched diet for good overall health.

This guide does not substitute for medical advice. If you have health concerns, talk to your doctor before starting a new diet.

Learn More
Time – “Why ‘BPA-Free’ May Be Meaningless”
Environmental Working Group’s “Clean Fifteen”
Harvard – “Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?” – “Beans and Digestive Problems”
Authority Nutrition – “6 Reasons Why Gluten is Bad for Some People”
Sunrise Flour Mill, LLC. – “Turkey Red, A Heritage Wheat”
Center for Science in the Public Interest – “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks”
National Institutes of Health – “Diet and Nutrition: The Artificial Food Dye Blues”
Environmental Working Group’s “Consumer Guide to Seafood”
Science Daily – “BPA linked to breast cancer tumor growth”
Scientific American – “Plastic (Not) Fantastic: Food Containers Leach a Potential Harmful Chemical”
NPR – “Study: Most Plastic Leach Hormone-Like Chemicals”
Scientific American – “BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous”
Harvard Health Publications – “Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or not?”
Mayo Clinic – “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan”
Voice of America – “Oceans Could Hold More Plastic Than Fish by 2050”
Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Medical School – “Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later”
NPR – “Farro: An Ancient and Complicated Grain Worth Figuring Out” 

Feature image Soberve @iStock

Want Healthy Emails? 
All You Have to Do is Lift A Finger!