November 16, 2021
If you read last week's article, you know everything there is to know about the history and health benefits of chocolate.
Chocolate has long been revered as a superfood, from its origins as a sacred beverage, an offering during cultural and spiritual ceremonies, an aphrodisiac, and even as currency. Now, we're not talking about your ancestors mowing down snack-sized Butterfingers or ordering up a venti mocha Starbucks. Ancient chocolate was consumed in close-to-raw form—with a notable lack of sweeteners and additives—preserving its health-protecting and health-promoting qualities, which, to recap, include:
- Chocolate can help lower blood pressure, support healthy cholesterol levels, and more
- It can reduce the overall risk of cardiovascular disease
- Chocolate also helps improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism
- Consumption of chocolate can help reduce skin damage and help prevent early skin aging
- It's rich in flavanols like epicatechin and catechin, which help protect your cells from inflammation, improve your brain function, and more
Perhaps the greatest benefit, though, in my opinion, is the pure gratification I feel when appreciating the aroma and taste of a square of high-quality healthy chocolate mid-afternoon or the first sip of adaptogen-rich hot chocolate (Gold Chocolate powder from Organifi is one pretty darn good option when frothed with coconut milk, just sayin') after dinner. As I have reflected on in the past, I believe that God wants us to fully savor life's pleasures.
In last week's article, I also went over what to look for in a healthy chocolate, because it is certainly not all created equal—in fact, most supermarket chocolate is chock-full of crap and lacking the protective and health-promoting properties outlined above. I don't know about you, but personally, I have no interest picking up a king-sized candy bar in the grocery store checkout line if I have chocolate alternatives that also offer significant health advantage (and truthfully, my taste buds have evolved to not even like that kind of chocolate anymore…I suppose I have turned into something of a chocolate aficionado, which is not the worst thing).
Now, hopefully you're already fully convinced that chocolate should be a regular part of your daily diet, but, as you're hopefully convinced by now, your kid's leftover Halloween candy is not going to cut it if you're looking for optimal nutrition and if you want to feel good about how your chocolate was sourced.
The good news is that present-day advances have allowed for a plethora of tasty chocolate options that preserve those health benefits that your ancestors already appreciated…and you know that I'm all about the marriage of ancestral wisdom and modern science.
After reading this week's installation on chocolate, you will be fully equipped to be able to navigate just about any grocery store or gas station in America as you seek your next chocolate fix. After meticulously analyzing just about every “healthy chocolate” on the market today, I’ve rounded them up in a list of my top 10 choices. These are in no particular order, and any choice from the following is sure to be better for you than your average Hershey’s bar.
My Top 10 Healthy Chocolate Choices in 2021
Hu-ly cow, Hu makes some darn delicious chocolate.
Seriously, this stuff is like crack—and it just so happens to be one of the cleanest, healthiest chocolates on the market.
All of their chocolate is Certified Paleo, Vegan, and USDA Organic, and free of refined sugar, sugar alcohols, dairy, palm oil, gluten, and soy.
Hu's “Simple Dark Chocolate” has the least amount of ingredients (just three!) so it’s my personal pick for their healthiest flavor. However, every bar they make is incredible, so you really can’t go wrong.
Ingredients: Organic cacao, organic unrefined coconut sugar, organic fair-trade cocoa butter.
- USDA Organic
- 70% is the highest cocoa content
- Higher in sugar (9g per serving)
Other Favorite Flavors:
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried one of Hu’s nut-butter-filled chocolates (drool). I personally love the “Cashew Butter + Vanilla Bean” and “Hazelnut Coffee.”
Evolved came on the scene as one of the first official Paleo and Keto chocolate brands. In fact, their slogan is “Chocolate: It’s food not candy.”
Evolved’s “Midnight Coconut” is for all you dark-dark chocolate lovers out there—100% cacao, baby. It has zero grams of sugar and no sweeteners; just pure cacao and coconut, which is about as simple and clean as you can get when it comes to chocolate bars.
However, it’s obviously going to be pretty bitter due to the 100% cacao, so this flavor is not for the faint of heart (though I personally think the coconut cuts through the bitterness nicely). If that’s not up your alley, don’t worry, they have plenty of other delicious, healthy chocolate flavors to choose from.
Ingredients: Organic cacao, organic shredded coconut, organic cacao butter.
- Zero sugar
- USDA Organic
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
- None that I’m aware of (perhaps maybe that you'll eat too much of it?) !
Other Favorite Flavors: Another great bar flavor is “Almond Sea Salt.” They also make killer nut butter cups, including “Caramel Coconut Butter Cups.” Try those alongside a piping hot cup of coffee, and thank me later.
3. The Good Chocolate – Dark Chocolate With Coconut & Turmeric
The Good makes some seriously healthy chocolate.
All of their bars are made with real organic cacao and sweetened with stevia and erythritol, as well as mesquite powder—which is high in minerals, fatty acids, and has a number of reported health benefits such as increasing bone mineral density and promoting healthy blood glucose.
The Good’s “Detox Bar,” made with coconut and turmeric, obviously caught my eye and I was not disappointed. It’s one of the cleanest, lowest calorie options I’ve found in a chocolate bar—but sure doesn’t taste like it. The turmeric spice paired with toasted coconut flakes elicits an exotic, sweet and spicy flavor combo that’ll make you forget it’s actually good for you.
Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, erythritol, organic cocoa butter, organic coconut flakes, organic turmeric powder, mesquite powder, organic stevia extract, organic vanilla.
- Zero sugar
- Certified FODMAP Friendly
- Price ($8/bar!)
- Contains sugar alcohols*
Other Favorite Flavors: The Good also makes Himalayan Sea Salt, Roasted Almond, and Signature Dark flavors that are also just darn…good.
*Sugar alcohols could be an issue for some folks, due to their potential to cause digestive problems, weight gain, and blood sugar spikes, especially when consumed in large amounts. I've actually talked about all things sugar alcohols—good and bad—in this podcast with Paddy Spence. For more information about healthier sweeteners, check out this article.
Seen this iconic disc-like chocolate bar in the grocery store?
That would be Taza.
Besides doubling as a hockey puck, Taza is unique because it uses “stone-ground chocolate,” made by grinding cacao beans with traditional Mexican stone mills. This apparently creates less-processed chocolate that retains its nutrients, bright, fruity flavors, and grittier texture.
Taza’s “Cacao Puro” is about as pure as you can get with chocolate—hence, the name. It only contains two ingredients: 70% cacao and cane sugar.
Most of Taza’s chocolates are made with organic cacao, but some have more sugar and extra ingredients than others. So the “healthiness” of it really depends on which flavor you choose.
Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar.
- USDA Certified Organic
- Direct Trade Certified (pays workers higher than Fairtrade)
- Higher in sugar (10g/serving)
Other Favorite Flavors: They’re lower in cacao content than I usually like to see (50%), but the “Vanilla” and “Cinnamon” flavors are some of the best.
5. Pascha Chocolate – Dark Chocolate + Arabica Coffee
Pascha chocolate is a new discovery that I’m pretty excited about. Their chocolate is sourced from single-origin, organic, fine aroma Criollo cacao beans, grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains leading down to the Amazon Rainforest.
All of Pascha's healthy chocolate bars are made with minimal, 100% organic ingredients, and they're incredibly low in sugar (with some zero-sugar varieties).
Pascha’s “Dark Chocolate + Coffee” flavor is one I’m loving currently. It combines 70% cacao with organic arabica coffee beans—so in other words, if you like coffee, you will love this chocolate bar.
Ingredients: Organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, and organic ground roasted coffee.
- USDA Organic
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
- Potentially more carbs as chocolate liquor typically is made up of 17% carbohydrates (keep in mind, though, as discussed in Part 1 of this article series, there is no alcohol in chocolate liquor)
Other Favorite Flavors: Their other flavors are fairly basic and mostly vary by cacao content, but they’re all good and equally as clean.
6. Alter Eco – Classic Blackout
Alter Eco is another excellent choice.
Their chocolate is USDA Organic and grown and harvested using “dynamic agroforestry” regenerative farming practices, as opposed to typical monoculture practices used throughout the cocoa industry.
In other words, you can get all the warm-fuzzies while you shove half a bar down your gaping maw, knowing your money will be used to create a healthier planet with better soil, which can continue to feed your chocolate addiction. What a beautiful cycle.
At 85% cacao, Alter Eco’s “Classic Blackout” is a step down from Evolved’s “Midnight Coconut” for those that want all the antioxidants of cacao but can’t quite hang with the bitterness of 100%. I find it perfectly satisfies any chocolate cravings I might be having.
Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cacao butter, organic raw cane sugar, organic vanilla beans.
- USDA Organic
- Some flavors contain dairy or gluten and can be higher in sugar (up to 15g), so make sure to read labels
- This also contains added sugars—4g per serving and 11g per container
Other Favorite Flavors: So many other good choices. “Sea Salt,” “Brown Butter,” and “Burnt Caramel” are all delicious—though some have more sugar than others.
Mmm, sea salt and chocolate, does a better combo exist?
Well, maybe peanut butter and chocolate, or strawberries and chocolate, or mint and chocolate… OK, OK, chocolate makes just about everything better.
Thankfully, Theo Chocolate knows that, and they’ve basically perfected every popular chocolate flavor combination using only 100% organic, simple ingredients. They were the first Organic, Fairtrade Certified chocolate maker in North America, and all of their bars are still made from scratch today.
Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic sea salt.
- USDA Organic
- Fair for Life Certified
- Higher in sugar (9g per serving)
Other Favorite Flavors: Their new “Turmeric Spice” flavor—made with organic turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper—looks intriguing, though I have admittedly not yet tried it. Currently, “Orange” and “Mint” are two of my go-tos.
8. Lily’s – Salted Caramel Extra Dark Chocolate
I tried this chocolate the other day without knowing much about it…
…and I was absolutely blown away when I flipped over the label to see that it had exactly zero grams of sugar!
Unlike other sugar-free chocolates, this one didn’t leave that fake, sickly sweet aftertaste, the texture was creamy and velvety, and the “Salted Caramel” flavor was mind-blowingly good.
Instead of sugar, Lily uses a blend of erythritol and stevia in their chocolate bars. While sugar alcohols like erythritol can cause digestive issues for some people, the small amount you’re actually consuming in a serving of chocolate shouldn’t be an issue (unless you eat the whole friggin' bar, in which case…well, yeah, I don’t blame you).
Lily bars do contain a few extra ingredients such as sunflower lecithin and “natural flavors” which can be a bit of a question mark. So it might not be the most natural choice, but for those avoiding sugar or carbs, it’s a great, relatively clean option.
Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, erythritol, chicory root fiber, cocoa butter, natural flavor, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, vanilla extract, stevia extract.
- Zero sugar
- Not organic
- Contains sugar alcohols (could be an issue for some folks)
Other Favorite Flavors: “Blood Orange” is my next favorite flavor from Lily’s. They also make darker versions like “Extremely Dark Chocolate” (85%) and “Intensely Dark Chocolate” (92%).
9. ChocXO – Keto Raspberry Quinoa Snaps
Let’s face it, sometimes your average chocolate bar can get a little boring, but you may feel like spicing it up without reaching for a Kit Kat.
In that case, you may want to try ChocXO’s “snaps” that are basically a crunchy, tart, chocolatey snack.
ChocXO makes a number of organic, great-tasting, low sugar chocolate treats without using sugar substitutes or alcohols. Plus, most of them are “Keto Certified” which means they’re under a certain net carbohydrate standard (6g per serving for snacks).
Ingredients: Organic dark chocolate (organic cocoa mass, organic cocoa butter, organic low-fat cocoa powder, organic cane sugar, organic vanilla extract), organic quinoa crisp, organic freeze dried raspberries.
- Keto Certified
- USDA Organic
- Some of their products do contain milk, soy, and other ingredients, so be sure to check labels.
Other Favorite Flavors: ChocXO also makes some killer chocolate nut butter cups, like their “70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Cups.”
10. Endangered Species – Strong & Velvety
Endangered Species Chocolate is made with only a handful of health-conscious, high-quality, responsibly sourced ingredients.
Another reason I like this brand is that they donate 10% of their profits to global habitat conservation organizations (hence the name Endangered Species).
However, most of their bars do contain soy lecithin, which is a common—yet frankly unnecessary—emulsifier used in chocolate. But they do get “brownie points” for accessibility, as you can find this healthier chocolate in just about every grocery store (and even a lot of gas stations) in the US.
One of my personal favorite flavors of theirs is the Strong & Velvety 88% Dark Chocolate. It’s simple, yet decadent and—yes—“velvety smooth.”
Ingredients: Bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor, cane sugar, soy lecithin, vanilla).
- Not organic
- Contains soy
Other Favorite Flavors: My other favorites are the “Cacao Nibs” and “Espresso Beans + Dark Chocolate,” both of which are absolutely delicious and perfectly crunchy.
Homemade Healthy Chocolate Recipe: Coffee-Cacao Sipper
Now, no article on chocolate would be complete without a famous Greenfield homemade recipe. This “Coffee-Cacao Sipper” straight from my Boundless Cookbook is an intense chocolate experience with a hint of java; perfect for a cold morning.
And of course, there are added health-promoting ingredients. Ceylon cinnamon helps control blood sugar, and though collagen is optional, I recommend it for active individuals. The cardamom or rosemary is also optional but will enhance the coffee’s antioxidant properties.
- 2 tablespoons cacao powder
- 12 to 16 ounces brewed hot coffee
- 1 tablespoon almond or other nut butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter or coconut manna
- 1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- A few drops of butterscotch toffee or vanilla liquid stevia
- Pinch of cardamom or dried ground rosemary (optional)
- 1 scoop unflavored collagen peptides (optional)
Place the ingredients in a blender and blend for 1 minute, until smooth and oh-so-frothy. Oh, and be careful when you open the lid: this stuff can get a bit fizzy under pressure. Just ask my wife Jessa, who has—perhaps more than once—had to help me clean a coffee explosion off the kitchen walls.
I recently discovered another at-home healthy hot chocolate that requires zero work on your part. I've long been a big fan of Organifi juice powders, and now they have a new formula called Gold Chocolate that is, well, chocolate gold. This rich, delicious blend contains Reishi mushroom, which promotes restful sleep, traditional Ayurvedic herbs to nourish the body, and lemon balm extract (AKA the “calming herb”)—and it has zero sugar. I blend a scoop with coconut milk for a creamy, satisfying health chocolate treat before bed. (You can get 20% off everything at Organifi with code BENG20.)
There you have it, folks. Chocolate is not simply a decadent dessert or Halloween night vice. It’s a cultural connection to our past; a ceremonial relic of the ancients; a medicinal elixir; a mood-boosting pharmacopeia.
This humble seed of the Theobroma cacao tree is choc-full of antioxidants, minerals, fatty acids, and even psychoactive compounds that have been shown to benefit everything from our heart, to our vascular system, cognitive health, teeth, and even our skin.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to consume chocolate, though—at least in my opinion—is for the mood-boosting effects of theobromine, the compound in the Theobroma cacao tree that makes you feel good. While I'll never turn down a chance to take advantage of that benefit with chocolate itself, I was recently introduced to a groundbreaking technology that allows you to feel the effects of theobromine without consuming a thing. As I discussed in this recent post, the Hapbee device can impart the therapeutic benefits of theobromine (and other substances such as caffeine and nicotine) by capturing the energy of a compound and playing its frequency back to you. Wild, right?
While we’ve certainly given chocolate a bad name over the past century, thanks in part to the companies listed here (and many more not included), your average American household can now easily experience chocolate in its purer, healthier—yet still mind-blowingly delicious—form.
To recap, my top 10 choices for healthy chocolate include:
- The Good Chocolate
- Taza Chocolate
- Pascha Chocolate
- Alter Eco
- Theo Chocolate
- Endangered Species
And finally, I’ll end with this lovely quote from “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate”:
“To taste chocolate, therefore, is to share in a common connection through history, from the time of the Olmec over 3000 years ago to the present, from the frothy cacao beverages prepared at the court of King Moctezuma, to the era of the modern chocolate bar.”
Oh, and if you somehow missed Part 1 of this two-part article series on healthy chocolates, I recommend giving it a read-through as you're bound to be convinced that you can feel good about indulging in any (all?) of the choices I've recommended here.
Now I want to hear from you: What’s your favorite healthy chocolate? What other good-for-you options I should try? Have you tried any of these? Leave your questions, comments, and feedback below. I read them all!
20 thoughts on “The Ultimate Healthy Chocolate Guide: The History Of Chocolate, 4 Big Health Benefits Of Chocolate & My Top 10 Chocolate Choices in 2021: Part 2.”
For some reason I don’t tolerate chocolate very well. I seem to do better with cacao nibs but if I swap them out for powder in my smoothie I’m out of commission for a few days due to headaches and digestion/bloating issues. To each their own.
Very well done deep dive into chocolate and how it can help with one’s health. It’s a great food, versatile and in some cases healthful, but with anything, consumption should be done in moderation.
How seriously should we take the Consumer Labs report on the amount of lead and cadmium in chocolate? Theo for instance has one of the highest concentrations for both of these heavy metals. https://www.asyousow.org/environmental-health/toxic-enforcement/toxic-chocolate/
How do you feel about JoJo’a Goes Hawaiian as a sugar free option ?
Sorry for the misspelling – it’s JoJo’s
You need to try Ombar https://www.ombar.com/
Its my favorite, and I have 1 square per day of the 100% Cacao along with my bulletproof coffee in the morning.
Have tried several 100% but this too me is by far the most palatable.
I take an ounce of an 88% chocolove xo bar, melt it, melt two teaspoons of xylitol and add it to the chocolate melt and then put it in a mold. Once it’s hard, I add some all natural peanut butter on top for my own healthier version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I do this about once a week. The rest of the week I eat straight cacao nibs.
Thanks for sharing Brad! Just be careful with peanut butter: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/nutritio…
After trying a Stay Young chocolates, it is hard to go back to my other options. It’s an Estonian company. All the chocolates are raw, vegan and organic.
Great list! Just one issue: cadmium…how many of these have been tested & shown to be low in heavy metal toxicity? Most chocolates & cocoa are ridiculously high in cadmium toxicity. Endangered Species is the only one on the list for which I’ve seen tests results showing that it is very low & safe.
I wonder about this as well. I’ve seen Theo (85% dark at least) on lists of chocolate high in cadmium.
Good call, many are unaware of the danger!
Many of these on the list have been tested by consumerlab.com and were found to be quite high in cadmium content. The choices for low cadmium chocolate, cocoa, and nibs are few. A subscription to their service provides the information.
Yes, consumerlab.com updated their article, “Dark Chocolates, Cocoa, and Cacao Powders, Nibs, and Supplements Review — Sources of Flavonols” written Feb. 21, 2023. The amount of cadmium in several of the bars, including one brand that I saw on Ben Greenfield’s site, that they sampled exceeded the amount that they considered acceptable. Unfortunately the full results are not free to read; one has to be a member.
Did you check out Vosges Haut Chocolate? They have a Raw Honey Cacao bar that is amazing! Not only is is 100% cacao it is infused with a 528hz healing sound frequency to “raise your vibe”. Make sure to read their instructions on how to experience their chocolate bar! They have a beautiful line of exotic flavored bars and truffles and their creator has a great story. vosgeschocolate.com
Before lecture each day (I am a 62 y/o college prof, teaching Christian scripture) I eat half a bar of Montezuma Black (100%), which I buy from TJ’s. Been doing it for 2+ years. My mind is sharp and my tongue works so much better. I also have coffee just before class; when I used the Bulletproof recipe it was even better.
Some great options here, but what about mycotoxins in chocolate? I only know of a handful of companies that test. I think both Hu and Pascha do, although those both have some cons as you listed. My favorite is Addictive Wellness. Pricey, but good!
Thank you Sarah! I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying our chocolate! Yes, we’re very passionate about only using the highest quality mycotoxin-free cacao. :)
Wow, I read your post and did some checking into it and ordered Addictive Wellness is awesome! I received the order, it is my new go to for chocolate awesome ingredients. Got the variety pack, love all the options to try out. Thanks for getting this on my chocodar/radar ;-).
Thank you for sharing this Deb!