Chocolate: A Dark Analysis

Have you seen the latest headlines about chocolate? Turns out, those who eat it tend to be slimmer. 

Does that mean you can wolf down bags of chocolate and get slim? Of course not. But I tell my clients (even those who are trying to lose fat) that it's fine to have chocolate on occasion if they're craving it -- under one condition -- they have to choose the best.

Here's how.

Dark Versus Milk. What’s the Diff?

First, when trying to find a healthier chocolate bar your best bet is to go dark and opt for the stuff you never see on TV. (Found at most health food stores.)

The darker a chocolate bar is, the higher its percent cocoa. You’ll see this percentage on the wrapper. If it’s not on the wrapper and the bar claims to be dark chocolate, its cocoa content is probably pretty low. 

Most self-proclaimed chocoholics are actually just fat-and-sugar-aholics. Chocolate, the real deal, contains more cocoa and less junk than what most people eat and consider chocolate. White chocolate is just candy. It has zero cocoa solids.

Cocoa is the antioxidant-packed ingredient that makes chocolate chocolate. So the higher the percentage, the better it is for you. And you’ll notice, the higher the cocoa content the less sugar (and more fiber) it'll contain.

Go Dark for Dopamine

The best thing cocoa does for us is raise dopamine. 

And because of this surge, you'll often find articles that recommend having a square of the dark stuff just before a job interview or important meeting. I like it preworkout.

Dopamine is the hormone that's produced when we’re driven to accomplish things. Think of a lioness chasing down a gazelle. Dopamine = Drive and Desire. Try a square preworkout to trigger motivation and domination before you even set foot in the gym. **

You could also try a tablespoon baking cocoa straight to a cup of coffee in the morning.

The Best Bars 

If you’re on the hunt for a dark chocolate bar, opt for ones that are at least 70% or higher. The brand, Chocolove XOXOXO has a 70% bar that’s amazing. 

Then work your way up to the higher percentages from there. Serious chocolate lovers can handle a bar of 100% cocoa, i.e. baking chocolate. My favorite bar is 88% from Endangered Species Chocolate. I call it panther-face chocolate. 

Alter Eco Blackout, and Panama Organic Extra Dark have really cool packaging. We eat with our eyes first, and when you open something that appears luxurious, you’ll tend to treat it like it’s special, rather than cheap junk to shovel down.

If you ever break into my house you will find that there is a chocolate drawer near the sink. There's usually one or two bars of Lindt 90% Supreme Dark Chocolate in it.

Eat Like a Snob

Experience dark chocolate the same way a wine connoisseur tastes wine. 

Notice the nuances. Fancy chocolate will have different notes and textures that set it apart from other bars. It’ll be harder than milk chocolate, but don’t bite down when you first put it into your mouth. Let it soften on your tongue before chewing so that you can notice the flavor. It won't blast your tastebuds with hyper-sweetness like a milk chocolate bar. So be prepared for a bit of bitterness. 

And because it's so rich and bitter, you'll enjoy it, but you won't be able to go overboard. Bonus.

(Ultra-dark chocolate is amazing with almond butter smeared on top, btw.)

Bottom line: Wean yourself off of the sweet stuff and you'll appreciate the flavor of dark chocolate. 

** For more on feel-good hormones, check out the book, Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin by Loretta Graziano Breuning.