Chocolate – that delicious sweet treat that rules so many of our lives – is notoriously bad for you. But does it have to be?
Chocolate, in the right form, can actually be – not only tasty – but extremely good for you. Let’s start by answering a couple of critical questions.
Is Chocolate Good for You?
You might have heard that dark chocolate is a healthy choice. It turns out that cocoa powder – one of the main ingredients in dark chocolate – is responsible for its many health benefits. However, the other ingredients commonly added are not so beneficial for our health.
What’s So Good About It?
Regular consumption of cocoa-containing foods has been linked with improved arterial function and lowered blood pressure. Cocoa appears to lower LDL (“bad”) and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which is good news for preventing cardiovascular disease. Cocoa also appears to have a positive effect on ageing by exerting a protective effect on cells and un-stiffening arteries.
Unfortunately, while cocoa is a highly nutrient-dense food, most chocolates are also calorie-dense and contain high amounts of fat and sugar.
Looking for ways to get more cocoa in, satisfy your chocolate cravings but avoid the downsides of regular chocolate? Try some of these healthy chocolate suggestions:
Get your daily hit of chocolate in your favourite post-workout protein hit. Refuel with a pea protein (try to avoid whey where possible) and get your chocolate fix without the sugar calories.
Although milk-chocolate junkies might be disappointed by cacao nibs at first, I promise they will grow on you. Cacao nibs are essentially broken up roasted cacao beans, the base product of chocolate.
Cacao is the healthiest part of chocolate, so you can get all the antioxidant benefits, without the sugar and fat overload. Perfect on top of a smoothie or in a trail mix.
Chocolate Goji Bliss Balls:
One of the best ways to get your sugar hit without all the blood sugar spike is by leveraging nature’s favorite sweetener: dates! These chocolate goji bliss balls are all the goodness of chocolate without the negative impacts.
Healthy Chocolate Spread:
As above, you can make your own chocolate spread by leaning on the sweet power of dates as well as the creaminess of a healthy avocado. This homemade chocolate spread will give you your nutella/chocolate mousse fix, without any guilt.
It’s pretty simple to make brownies healthy, using zero refined sugar and even keeping them dairy free. These seven ingredient black bean brownies will keep your chocolate fix satiated, while remaining low calorie (and even giving you a hit of protein!).
Grab a frozen treat from your local supermarket in the form of a Fudgsicle (or similar) or make your own frozen pops from scratch.
Add two teaspoons of cocoa powder and one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to your morning porridge to give it a delicious chocolatey twist. If you want to really do it right, you can even add some cacao nibs on top!
Make your own chocolate pudding as easy as pie… well, as easy as pudding! For the simplest way to do this, make a classic chia pudding and add a couple of teaspoons of cocoa or cacao.
Dark Chocolate Bar:
Your favorite 70% chocolate bar is generally a pretty healthy option if you’re looking for a chocolate craving. Well Naturally make a great sugar-free alternative with only 62 calories per serve!
One way to mitigate the less healthy aspects of chocolate is to combine it with some delicious fresh (or frozen) fruit.
Bananas and strawberries are ideal to slice up, dip and throw in the freezer for a hot day. Use good quality (at least 70% cacao) chocolate for lower sugar, higher benefit chocolate.