The non-stop good news about the health benefits of dark chocolate has top quality chocolate sales increasing while commercial grade bars sit idle on the shelf awaiting their expiration date. But all dark chocolate is not the same. In fact it's not even close. But don’t worry, guides below will have you on top of your bar trek in just a few minutes.
1. Top quality chocolate contains only three to five ingredients at most. Also, focus on pure chocolate bars with infusions like nuts, spices and dried fruits as opposed to sugar-laden filled chocolates. Bar chocolate is the new boxed chocolate.
2. The first ingredient should be chocolate or some rendition there of such as cocoa, cocoa beans, cocoa liquor (this isn't alcohol-just pure cacao), cocoa solids, cocoa mass.
3. Look for non-alkali cocoa, or non-dutched. Dutching darkens chocolate and mellows its naturally acidic flavor, but unfortunately it also removes many of the antioxidants and health benefits of chocolate. Non-dutched is healthier.
4. Cocoa butter. You won't have cocoa butter if cocoa liquor is on the wrapper (as it's included in the liquor), but you'll see it when the ingredients list unsweetened cocoa or cocoa powder. Animal products like milk fat and regular butter are not as healthy as cocoa butter.
5. Sugars are up next-organic or raw sugar cane, pure cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, beat sugar, sugar, raw sugar cane. Not as healthly-corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maltose and other things that end with "ose."
6. Soy lecithin. Most bars contain this ingredient as an emulsifier-it helps chocolate maintain its form and consistency. However, a number of companies don't put lecithin in their bars, so it isn't absolutely necessary.
7. Vanilla. Look for vanilla beans, vanilla, organic vanilla. Vanillin (with the "n" on the end) is an artificial flavoring, so look for the "a" on the end for the real deal.
8. Fair trade: This means the manufacturer has paid higher-than-market price for the cocoa beans to help support the indigenous farmers who grow it. Always a good choice when available-invest in the future of quality chocolate.
9. Sugar-free chocolates...not recommended as most sugar-free sweeteners are unhealthy. Many contain aspartame, surcralose, saccharin and maltitol, products that tend to upset the stomach and cause gas. Eating dark chocolate with nuts (only 33 on the glycemic index, raising blood sugar less than a handful of grapes) is healthier than eating sugar-free chocolates. Diabetics should look for evaporated cane juice, a low-glycemic sweetener.
10. Shop for 70%+ dark chocolate. All the health benefits of chocolate (antioxidants, vitamins, mineral, protein, fiber, etc) are in the cocoa powder. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more value to your health.