They say money can’t buy you happiness. It can, however, buy you chocolate, which I think we can all agree leads to happiness.
Believe me, I’ve gone elbow deep into the Easter baskets in my house. But we also try to look for better options we can all enjoy any day of the year. With a few healthy swaps, it’s possible to make chocolate part of your daily diet. Seriously.
Why We Love Chocolate So Much
The aroma and taste of chocolate, along with the chemical compounds it contains, trigger reactions in our brains that make us feel better. After eating chocolate, our brains release dopamine which in turn helps lower stress. And this can impact our blood pressure and heart rate, how we sleep and our mood.
Why You Should Switch to Dark Chocolate
You’ve likely heard this piece of advice before, but it bears repeating: If you’re going to eat chocolate on a regular basis, the darker the better. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and minerals like magnesium that support our health while containing less sugar than milk or white varieties. Antioxidants support the immune system and help protect us from nasty stuff in the environment that can make us sick.
When shopping for dark chocolate, the higher the percentage of cocoa solids the better, so look for 70 percent or higher.
Five Ways to Enjoy Chocolate
I no longer try to live a life without chocolate. I’ve tried to get away, but like a boomerang, I just keep coming back. That’s why I’m always looking for different ways to enjoy chocolate that fit in with my dietary needs. Because it’s all about balance, not deprivation.
Here are five delicious ideas worth trying:
- Add cacao powder to your post-workout smoothie.
It’s all in the spelling here. “Cacao” powder is less processed, maintaining more of the naturally occurring nutrients found in cacao beans. “Cocoa powder,” on the other hand, is processed at higher temperatures, which make it sweeter and less bitter. Adding some of the former to a smoothie will add a rich, chocolatey taste while being more nutritious. I like to also throw in some frozen bananas and cherries, a handful of spinach and a bit of vanilla almond milk. Blend it up and you have a healthy snack disguised as a dessert.
- Stir some chocolate chips into your oatmeal.
Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast canvas. Adding in a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips into your morning bowl will help liven up your oats in seconds while providing those antioxidants we talked about earlier. Top it with some desiccated coconut and a drizzle of almond butter for a satisfying way to get your chocolate fix first thing in the morning that’s anything but boring.
- Dip your favorite fruits in melted chocolate.
We should all eat more fruit on a daily basis. Fruit is also less processed than other dessert options. Melt some dark chocolate and dip in anything from strawberries to orange segments, let them set and enjoy. You can also dip banana slices and freeze them for later. Should all of your daily fruit be dipped? Probably not. But it’s a two-for-one way to get more fruit into your diet and satisfy that sweet tooth.
- Use cacao nibs in your trail mix.
Everyone knows the best part of trail mix is the chocolate. Eaten alongside some dried fruit or nuts, it’s the perfect combo of salty and sweet. But instead of going the M&M route, consider adding some cacao nibs to your next batch to satisfy your craving without all of the added sugar of candy.
- Make up a batch of breakfast bars.
Prepackaged convenience foods are often loaded with extra ingredients you don’t want in your diet. But making your own breakfast bars with this simple formula allows you to customize them however you like. Choose your preferred blend of oats, nuts and dried fruits and then use a touch of chocolate as a sweet finishing touch. Add chocolate chips right into the mix or drizzle some melted chocolate on the final product.
What is your favorite way to satisfy your chocolate cravings? Share your tips and treats in the comments.