Chocolate's high sugar and fat content can cause weight gain and potential health risks including diabetes and heart disease if you eat too much of it. If you've tried quitting chocolate cold turkey with mixed results, try subbing out the sugary treat with healthier chocolate substitutes to satisfy cravings while boosting nutrition.
Satisfy chocolate cravings with cacao, the beans from the cacao plant that can be eaten in a powder, butter or nib form. In contrast to the sugary sweet chocolates commercially sold, cacao has a bitter taste due to the absence of sugar and palm syrups. Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, other health benefits of cacao include lowered blood pressure, insulin resistance and improved digestive health from a higher fiber content compared to chocolate. However, some cacao products have added sugars and ingredients to create a sweet, flavorful treat. Read all package labels to determine how much sugar and fats you are ingesting.
Chocolate milk not only satisfies chocolate cravings but it also provides a nutritional boost in the form of calcium and vitamin D. Look for brands that are low in sugar and fat to avoid possible weight gain. If you avoid dairy due to allergy or intolerance, try a nondairy light soy, rice or almond chocolate milk as an alternative. Chocolate milk also serves as a healthy post-exercise drink to improve recovery after hard workouts due to its ratio of muscle-repairing protein and glycogen restoring carbohydrates.
Carob is a healthy substitute for chocolate primarily because it is free from cocoa-containing stimulants including caffeine and theobromine. While these substances boast some health benefits, many people are sensitive to stimulants or can become overstimulated. Too much can lead to nervousness, jitters, restlessness or a rapid heartbeat. In terms of nutrition, carob powder is lower in fat than plain cocoa powder that forms chocolate but much higher in carbs and sugars. Carob candies, unsweetened, also contains significantly more calcium than milk chocolate candies, with 86 milligrams and 13 milligrams of calcium per 1-ounce serving, respectively.
You can have your chocolate -- and eat it, too -- if you choose the right kind. Dark chocolate is a healthier alternative to milk chocolates that are high in added sugars. Dark chocolate that has not undergone extensive processing methods is a source of flavanols and antioxidants for disease prevention and heart health. Look for chocolate that has at least 70 percent cacao content and stick to serving suggestion sizes, or, in other words, enjoy in moderation.
- QuickandDirtyTips.com: Carob vs. Chocolate
- Body + Soul: Cacao - Like Chocolate but Healthy
- HuffPost Taste: Benefits of Dark Chocolate: Health Up Your Easter Baskets!
- Animals Australia: The Voice for Animals: Go Deliciously Dairy-Free!
- I Quit Sugar: Raw Cacao vs Cocoa: What's the Difference?
- RunnersConnect: Is Chocolate Milk Really a Good Recovery Drink After Running?
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid
- Cleveland Clinic: Health & Prevention: Heart Health Benefits of Chocolate
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Candies, Milk Chocolate