Dark chocolate: once considered a rare treat is now mainstream. It’s become the acceptable snack for wannabe healthy eaters.
There’s something about dark chocolate that makes you carefully indulge a piece or two. Compared to milk chocolate when I would eat half a pack before I knew it.
Research points to flavanols – substances that help lower blood pressure and vascular function, improve cognitive function , and even provides UV protection for our skin! Dark chocolate has a higher proportion of flavanols than milk chocolate.
A higher percentage of cacao (cocoa) means a higher amount of flavanols.
Warning: Lookout for Dutching
The method used to process the raw cacao bean can affect the amount of flavanols in the end product.
Healthy Dark Chocolate Brands
Organic, fair trade, all natural dark chocolate. 60% with nibs, 70%, or 80%. Around 20 calories/square.
72% Cacao Chocolate Bars. Not processed with alkali. There used to be an 85% – but we can’t find it anymore. There is also some controversy over whether they use GMO Soy Lecithin.
Ghirardelli Intense Dark
72% Cacao and 86% Cacao Chocolate Bars. They have bars as well as small squares.
70% Cacao and 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars.
A German chocolate. Available at Aldi stores.
70% Cacao and 85% Cacao bars. They also make a 90% and 99% cacao (these are much harder to find).
NOTE: Some of the bars are processed with alkali. Check labels carefully. As of writing the 90% is processed with alkali, but the 85% is not.
Green & Blacks
70% Cacao and 85% Cacao bars. Organic and sometimes fair trade (e.g. Maya Gold – check label).
The 70% includes Soy Lecithin.
There are no genetically modified ingredients.
72% Cacao and 88% Cacao bars. Also a 70% organic bar.
Ethically traded cacao. Social enterprise.
70% Cacao and a 73% Fair trade bar.
70%, 80%, and 87% cacao bars.
All 100% USDA organic.
Vivani is a German chocolatier that sources ingredients from Ceres (100% organic).
72% and 85% bars available in USA and Canada.
Organic, processed without alkali, no Soy Lecithin.
Based in Canada.
Raw, USDA organic.
A large range of dark chocolate bars up to 89%.
Based in Seattle.
100% Organic, Fair Trade, and non-GMO certified.
85% and a large range of different flavored 70% bars.
Boutique NY dark chocolate company.
Selection of chocolate squares (from 72% right up to 100% cacao!)
Organic, processed without alkali, fair trade. Awesome.
- Zotter Chocolates – Based in Austria, they offer a mouthwatering array of flavors, and also, 80%-90% dark chocolate bars (the Labooko range) – also certified Fair Trade.
- Montezuma Chocolates (UK) – Have a selection of organic dark chocolate (70%) bars.
- Malmo Chokladfabrik (Sweden) – The 1888 range has a selection of dark chocolates (organic and fair trade). There is even an anti-oxidant boost chocolate (with olives !?).
Dark Chocolates That Don’t Make The Grade
- Dove Dark Chocolate
Low cacao content. All processed with alkali.
- CocoaVia Supplement Packs
These are similar to Crystal Light, except they have flavanols (the main chocolate antioxidant) added in. You will get some health benefits from this, but it is more important to eat the whole food that contains the fiber.
- Hershey’s Special Dark
Processed with alkali. High in sugar.
- Dark Chocolate M&M’s
The ingredients list is ambiguous (they list “chocolate” as an ingredient). However these are high in sugar (more like candy than healthy dark chocolate).
- Milky Way Midnight
Like all the candy brands, this is not really a dark chocolate. It has more sugar than cacao and is processed with alkali.
- Nestle Dark Hot Chocolate
Ouch! This beverage mix is the worst of the lot. Sugar, trans-fat, and processed with alkali.
- Cadbury Bournville
60g of sugar per small bar.
- Brookside Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate or Blueberries: Even though this appears to have some fruit – a closer look at the ingredients says something different.
How to Choose the Best Chocolate
There are dozens of boutique chocolate brands out there. If in doubt, use the following guide.
A true dark chocolate will never have sugar listed first in the ingredients. It should always be below the cocoa ingredients.
It should also tick as many of the following points:
- 100% Organic
Note that “organic” does not equal 100% organic (confusing!).
- Fair Trade
- > 70% cocoa
- Not processed with alkali
Also, note that some manufacturers use GMO (genetically modified) ingredients (this is usually the soy lecithin). Soy Lecithin is a byproduct of processed soy beans and is used an emulsifier (prevents water and fat from separating).
The Last Word: Can You Eat 99%
During a trip to Thailand I stumbled across a Lindt 99% bar. I knew they made them but had never seen anyone stock them.
Like Charlie looking for his golden ticket, I had to buy it.
It actually had a golden wrapper inside.
The taste? Hardcore. I’m a seasoned dark chocolate eater, but this was tough. It reminded me how bitter the cacao fruit is. It only really worked when I ate while drinking black coffee.
Anyone else up to the challenge?