Top 15 Best Chocolate Products To Sweeten Your Diet
The Mayans touted it as the “Food of the Gods” which should be enough reason to make chocolate products a dietary staple. And this time of year when cupid once again comes a calling, the appetite for chocolate is understandably heightened even if it is a cliché gift.
Great news for chocolate lovers lies in the raft of research that makes it even more tempting to include a little more chocolate in your life. Chocolate as a heart-healthy food? There must be a God. A large study, published recently in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from more than 188,000 veterans and concluded that regularly consuming about 1 ounce of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
Further, a meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients found that chocolate was likely beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. A 2023 investigation in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that eating chocolate just 1 to 3 times a week could help lower the risk of disease-related mortality.
There is also some preliminary data to suggest that the fiber in cacao behaves like a prebiotic (not to be confused with a probiotic), and because of this can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome. OK, the stuff is not kale, but it does appear there are worse things you can eat for longevity than chocolate. Much of the research has been industry-funded, but let us believe the results are robust no matter who is footing the bill.
Why the potential health boost? Scientists surmise it’s the abundance of beneficial flavonols in cacao, which are plant chemicals that act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation in the body, which are largely to thank for heart health and other benefits. For instance, these flavonols including epicatechin may help improve blood pressure numbers and vascular blood flow which is important in maintaining better heart functioning.
Now, not all chocolate products is created equal when it comes to our health. A bag of M&M’s isn’t a chocolate superfood, to say the least. Generally, the darker the chocolate — meaning the higher the cacao content — the greater the antioxidant and nutrient content and the lower the amount of added sugar. So when it comes to chocolate bars, your best bet is choosing those with 70 percent cacao or higher. (Unfortunately, even among darker chocolate flavonol content can vary widely based on harvesting and processing methods.)
One small study discovered that participants who ate dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate felt more satiated, less hungry and expressed a lower desire to consume something sweet. As for cocoa powder, it’s a good idea to opt for those labeled as natural or “raw” cacao powder, which means it has not been Dutch-processed (treated with alkali) and thus likely contains much higher levels of heart-healthy flavonol antioxidants.
The Truth About Heavy Metals In Chocolate Products
For all that can be celebrated about chocolate, there is one notable dark side. The cacao beans that are used to make chocolate products can be contaminated with potentially dangerous heavy metals. Consumer Reports tested various dark chocolate products including bars and cocoa powder and found some had levels of cadmium and lead above recommended thresholds, which may be especially concerning for pregnant women and young children.
Milk chocolate was found to have lower levels of heavy metals which makes sense since it contains fewer cocoa solids compared to dark chocolate. It’s not clear how much chocolate you have to eat from sources that are higher in heavy metals to pose a health risk, but if you are generally healthy and don’t go all Willy Wonka on the food it should be safe to enjoy chocolate in moderation. You can read the report to see the products that tested for lower levels and decide to choose these more often. It would be great to see future testing include chocolate protein powders as these are now widely used.
So, we are giving you permission to make V-day and beyond all about eating chocolate, especially if limiting the highly processed stuff like what is typically found in those heart-shaped boxes. And if you want to go big on the dark delight, you can add these chocolate-infused products to your love song playlist.
Our Top 15 Favorite Chocolate Products
Per serving: 220 calories, 4g fat, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 14g protein
Sometimes having chocolate for breakfast makes the world seem like a more loving place. Made with oat flour, whey protein, and cocoa, this gluten-free, protein-packed pancake and waffle mix only requires stirring with water so there is no reason why a stack of flapjacks need only be for weekend mornings.
Per serving (2 tbsp): 180 calories, 15g fat, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein
Skippy this is not. This decadent-tasting spread is made with dark chocolate and seven different nuts and seeds, giving you plenty of healthy fats. Smear it on apple slices, blend into smoothies or thin it with some maple syrup and cream for a killer pancake sauce.
Per serving: 150 calories, 5g fat, 24g carbs, 4g fiber, 5g protein
Like Cheerios for grown-ups. Made using cocoa-bathed upcycled oat protein from oat milk production and perfectly sweetened with California Medjool dates. Each spoonful feels like you are having dessert for breakfast or consider a bowl of crunchy cereal with milk as actual dessert.
Per serving: 230 calories, 11g fat, 22g carbs, 3g fiber, 15g protein
If you want to make a chocolaty treat for a special someone, which can include you, but your baking skills are lacking this protein-enriched brownie mix is your savior. Brownies that can help build muscle, who would have thought?
Per serving: 190 calories, 16g fat, 11g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g protein
Flavored with real raspberries instead of mystery “natural flavors” this Fair Trade certified chocolate bar contains 85% cacao so delivers less sugar and more health-boosting antioxidants. Dip a square into peanut butter because, hey, you only live once.
Per serving: 150 calories, 11g fat, 9g carbs, 6g fiber, 6g protein
Say hello to your new favorite yogurt or ice-cream topping. A nutrient-dense seed mix is bound together by sugar-free chocolate. There is a good amount of fiber here to make it a satisfying snack option.
Per serving: 150 calories, 13g fat, 12g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g protein
Dark chocolate (72% cacao) enrobes creamy cashew butter—awesome. The bars are made with organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified ingredients. Dare we say this nut-filled chocolate is too good to gift away.
Per serving: 20 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g carbs, 1g fiber, 0g protein
Take cacao beans, pummel them to bits and you have pleasantly bitter cacao nibs—chocolate you can eat that is about as close to its natural form as possible. Think of them as extra dark chocolate chips with more crunch, more health-hiking antioxidants and none of the sugar. The brand seeks out third-party testing of its cacao products to ensure they have safe levels of heavy metals. Toss ‘em on oatmeal, yogurt, and even salads to add even more chocolate into your life.
Per serving: 190 calories, 6g fat, 15g carbs, 7g fiber, 20g protein
This is protein powder on steroids. A high dose of plant protein is paired with greens, fruit powder, probiotics, and flax for one of the most nutritionally sound protein supplements out there. Get your chocolate fix and nutrition at once.
Per serving: 140 calories, 9g fat, 15g carbs, 1g fiber, 3g protein
Tastes like a hybrid of coffee and hot chocolate. Perfect for cozy feeling mornings. A bonus is the four functional mushrooms in the mix. Besides, surf legend Laird Hamilton is still ripped at nearly 60, so he must be doing something right when it comes to nutrition.
Per serving: 230 calories, 10g fat, 25g carbs, 10g fiber, 14g protein
Not all protein bars contain much protein. This organic one certainly does and goes one step further with heaps of fiber – a bar that truly satisfies. And it tastes like a chocolate dream.
Per serving: 370 calories, 10g fat, 49g carbs, 11g fiber, 20g protein
This is certainly no run-of-the-mill muesli. Sprouted brown rice protein, goji berries, chia seeds, cacao nibs, and probiotics make it a nutritional stand-out. Prepared by soaking the mixture in your milk of choice overnight, it’s the perfect nutrition for harried mornings. The muesli also has a nice range of micronutrients including iron, thiamin, zinc and magnesium.
Per serving: 100 calories, 1g fat, 3g carbs, 0g fiber, 20g protein
When you are serious about your protein powder this should be a top choice. The standards are lofty: whey from grass-fed cattle, a special filtration process that maintains amino acid integrity, and third-party NSF and Informed Sport certified to assure you are getting what you are paying for. The chocolaty protein powder also includes a unique enzyme blend shown to boost the absorption rate of the muscle-building amino acids.
Per serving: 100 calories, 1.5g fat, 24g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein
Made with nothing but organic bananas and organic chocolate (64% cacao content), these are a treat you can feel pretty darn good about eating. I’d say that the fruity truffles are a great pre-workout nibble for a last-minute shot of energy.
Per serving: 240 calories, 12g fat, 26g carbs, 11g fiber, 15g protein
If you are craving a chocolate candy bar, may we suggest opting for this option instead. A creamy almond butter base is paired with pea protein and a hit of deep chocolate flavor from chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Sweetened with dates and honey instead of the heavily processed sugars that dominate the candy bars at the checkout.