October 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm , by Julie Bain
My name is Julie and I am a chocoholic. I’m also a health editor, so when I learned that dark chocolate with high cocoa content is the healthiest, I focused on that. I got used to that deep, complex flavor and firmer texture that’s usually not as creamy as milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that are good for your cardiovascular system. Yes, there’s fat in there, too, but it’s mostly the good kind. Health food, right? Well, yes, in moderation—except for the added sugar.
Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association—way more than the six teaspoons the American Heart Association recommends as the max for women. That added sugar is being implicated in everything from obesity to diabetes to heart disease, so I wanted to cut back. But most of the sugar-free chocolate I tried was, well, nasty. And it contained chemicals and artificial sweeteners, which I’d like to avoid. Then I discovered chocolate bars made with stevia, which many experts say is a safe, natural no-cal sweetener. Jackpot!
My colleagues and I tasted several brands that are widely available and came up with two favorites: Dante (top in photo) and Lily’s (bottom).
• The Dante bar, at 98 percent cocoa, is a study in purity with just three ingredients: chocolate liquor, stevia and vanilla. Surprisingly not crumbly, it melts in the mouth with deep, rich, classic dark chocolate flavors, subtle sweetness and a touch of tannic bitterness in the aftertaste like a fine red wine. For the true dark-chocolate aficionado. The 1.6-ounce bar has 10 thick squares; each has only 26 calories. The bars, which come in plain paper wrapping, are made in small quantities to order on amazon.com; eight bars for $29.95.
• Lily’s original 55 percent cocoa dark chocolate has a few more ingredients that give it a more melty mouthfeel and better approximates the flavor of familiar sugar-sweetened chocolate. The 3-ounce bar has 30 little squares to savor; each has only about 11 calories. It comes in other flavors, too (see photo; I love the coconut). These are available at Whole Foods and on amazon.com; 12 bars for $58. A portion of the profits support childhood cancer.
These bars aren’t drugstore cheap, but they are worth the investment, both for the taste and for your health. Once you try them, you may never reach into your kids’ plastic pumpkin again!