Superfood Sweets for the Soul: Indulge in Dark Chocolate This Holiday Season

Rich, dark, delicious and luxurious -- what woman (or man) wouldn’t want that in their life every day?

Chocolate may seem like the devil when it comes to a diet, especially around the holidays, but it’s good for you in more ways than previously thought so forget the D word and read on.

In research compiled through scientists at the University of Cambridge recently, the heart-healthy benefits of certain chocolates may be even more legitimate than ever. The studies involved more than 100,000 subjects and included data from at least a half dozen complex experiments.

They found that consuming chocolate was linked to lower rates of stroke, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions, to name a few.

However, before you go raiding a candy store, not all chocolate is created equal.

Since cocoa is from plants, it indeed contains some of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These come mainly from the flavonoids, which work as super antioxidants in our bodies, protecting us from free radicals, which can cause aging and even heart disease.

Dark chocolate contains nearly 8 times the amount of antioxidants found in strawberries but when we add copious amounts of milk, sugar, nougat, and other wacky preservatives its of course crappy for us and should absolutely be avoided.

Here are some brands that we love that are lower in those naughty additives and high on all the nice stuff. Feel free to add them to your wish list this year and enjoy the indulgence.

1. Nicobella - Vegan organic dark chocolate and truffles made with a creamy ganache center, infused with high antioxidant ingredients such as green tea, blueberries and pumpkin. Their munch products are also made with wholesome nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pecans, combined with rich dark chocolate. Gorgeous and good for you.

2. Blanxart - This artisan brand comes all the way from Barcelona where they delicately design each bar and bite by hand and have been since 1954. It began with a master chocolatier, who decided to leave his prestigious job as a cake designer and open his own business with four partners. They created what would be one of the most renowned artisan chocolate factories in the world. Truly decadent.

3. Chocolate Inspirations - We love this brand because they love animals and create gourmet handcrafted chocolates, including their award winning English Toffee and Gluten Free & Vegan chocolates. They are run by a mother-daughter team and even donate a portion of proceeds to animal charities in need.

4. Coco- Zen - Coco-Zen is a small artisan chocolate company specializing in Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate truffles, using only organic and Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate. We love that they believe that all living things are connected and that all our actions not only affect ourselves but also the world around us! Great philosophy, great chocolate.

5. Recchiuti Confections – Founded by a husband and wife team in San Francisco who often select each ingredient at their San Francisco farmers’ market, like bundles of fresh lavender, tarragon and lemon verbena, and then carefully dry them for use in signature infusions. The chocolates are made using traditional European techniques and equipment and they even offer recipes on their site!

6. Taza - Taza Chocolate produces 100% stone ground, organic chocolate using only the best ingredients possible while compensating growers fairly for their work. Their chocolate is so unique it has been featured in Gourmet Magazine, The Art of Eating, Food & Wine, and more, and some of the best restaurants in the country use Taza Chocolate in their kitchens. What we love best though is that they have a positive effect on their community, industry, and livelihood and welfare of their growers.

7. Sibu - Cacao is an important crop for creating biological corridors in tropical lowlands and, with a 3,000 year history in Central America, it’s still a sacred crop to indigenous peoples. This Costa Rican luxury chocolate definitely seems sacred to many! It was created in part because the entirety of Costa Rica's fine cacao is exported, so you can find a Costa Rican chocolate bar in New York, but not in Costa Rica! Sibu is changing that.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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