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10 Things to Look for in Healthy Chocolate

1. Choose dried, not roasted, cacao beans that have been washed and thoroughly cleaned.

2. Avoid chocolates that have undergone any alkalization or “dutching” processes, which can neutralize the effects of nutrients in the beans, as well as interfere with its antioxidant potential.

3. The chocolate should be tested for bacteria and other infectious agents, as well as for lead.

4. Processing temperature for cacao beans should not exceed 110°F.

5. Look at the ingredients—a healthful chocolate product should have cocoa butter and cocoa solids as primary ingredients, not milk fats or hydrogenated oils. Avoid chocolate products high in refined sugar, corn syrup and/ or preservatives.

6. Bitter is best. Although milk chocolate isn’t “bad,” studies have confirmed that chocolate products with the highest antioxidant activity contain at least 70 percent pure cocoa powder.

7. How chocolate is sweetened is another important point. Obviously, avoid products high in refined sugars. Instead, good sweetening agents include low-glycemic sugars such as unprocessed crystallized cane sugar, fructose, and agave syrup. Also, sugar alcohols such as erythritol are a good alternative. Low-glycemic sugars and sugar alcohols do not increase blood sugar levels because they are released more slowly into the blood. Though there may be contradictory information on the Internet regarding some of these sweetening agents, academic research shows they are effective and healthier than traditional refined sugars.

8. Avoid products that use waxes and preservatives.

9. Consider a healthful chocolate beverage, as they are an effective supplement delivery option designed for maximum nutritional effect. Not only are such products more easily absorbed and utilized by the body; they are also easier for the elderly and children to incorporate into a balanced, nutritionally sound diet plan.

10. Consider cocoa products combined with other nutrients and/or antioxidant compounds. Good options include those with berry ingredients like blueberry or acai berry.