Halloween is around the corner, which means it's almost that time of year that parents everywhere get to steal candy from their kids' stash of sugary treats. They won't miss a few of those mini Hershey's chocolate bars, right?
Maybe not, but that doesn't mean grownups should pilfer the sweet treats, even with the superfood street cred that chocolate gets these days. Why doesn't that milk chocolate bar count as a dose of antioxidants?
Strangely enough, the minute milk proteins bind to cacao, the antioxidants are rendered unavailable to the body. Meaning that as soon as you add milk to your chocolate, it's no longer considered a health food.
Turn over a milk chocolate bar and you'll likely see this ingredient list: Sugar, milk, cocoa butter, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin, artificial flavors, PGPR emulsifier. If the not-so-wholesome ingredients in this candy bar have you scratching your head, we're right there with you. Not only is milk the second ingredient (see ya never, antioxidants), the last four ingredients are nasty chemical compounds.
These thickeners, artificial flavors, and poor quality ingredients are the reason that a super-size package of Hershey's minis cost the same amount as one bar of dark chocolate.
Don't demoralize yourself this Halloween and resort to snatching candy from your little trick-or-treaters—treat yourself and opt for dark chocolate instead.
The dark stuff contains the polyphenols procyanidins and epicatechins; polyphenols are a group of antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage, and are found in other superfoods like green tea, red wine, and berries.
The cacao that gives dark chocolate its rich flavor is also high in saturated fats like stearic acid and oleic acid, which could help explain why dark chocolate is so good at reducing bad LDL cholesterol and improving overall heart health. In fact, eating chocolate five times a week can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57 percent.
Plus, dark chocolate has been shown to decrease fasting insulin levels by 25 percent in healthy people, which is good news for your metabolism. When the body is less sensitive to insulin, it can instead use fat as a fuel source—lowered insulin sensitivity, which happens when you eat dark chocolate, can mean that you burn more fat throughout the day.
Ready to load up your cart with the sweet stuff? Check out our favorite dark chocolate picks.
A little sweet, a little salty, this dark chocolate bar is organic and fair trade. Our friends at Alter Eco know every co-op from which they source individually, so their cacao beans aren't just top quality—they're grown with love, too! This is the perfect bar for someone who's looking for a bit of crunch in their creamy dark chocolate.
Confession time: This chocolate bar is the ultimate favorite here at Thrive HQ. The melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate has just enough of an almond crunch to keep things interesting—we unwrap a bar at 2 p.m. almost every day!
With just three ingredients, this Mexican-style stone-ground, authentic chocolate is going to be your new favorite. The texture is a little different than your typical chocolate bar—it's more crumbly, but that makes it easy to break off a little (or a lot) to crumble over ice cream, mix into trail mix, or eat by the handful.
The 75-percent cacao in this bar imparts a deep, almost bitter taste—it's even topped with cacao nibs for an extra superfood kick. A little goes a long way with this one, and breaking off a little square to melt in your mouth will cure your chocolate craving, stat!
Not for the faint of heart, this 100-percent cacao bar is as healthy as chocolate gets! If you looooove dark chocolate, this one's for you. Not sure you can handle the intensity? Try melting it into a little coconut oil and drizzling over popcorn for an upgraded version of movie theater popcorn.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho