Tag Archives: health and chocolate

More evidence for the health benefits of dark chocolate.

The following link from Forbes magazine details the latest research on chocolate’s benefits to mind and body.



Artisana Organics Criollo Chocolates

Artisana chocolate has a history that goes back to 1700. The family has been farming cacao in Venezuela for over three hundred years, long before we even conceptualized an “organic” food label. It was always organic and still is, though now it’s USDA certified, Non-GMO, vegan, and gluten free.

I happen to have an on-going love affair with criollo beans and all three of their bars are made with this complex, yet mellow chocolate. There are three iterations: 65%, 75%, and 85%. Each 50 gram bar comes in a pretty cardboard envelope with a foil liner. The bars themselves are divided into six rectangles with a lovely bas relief of a cacao pod. Each rectangle has raised sides and an indented middle. For the life of me I don’t know why this design is so satisfying. Perhaps, because it accentuates the beautiful shiny, crisp temper?

Fifty gram bars are not typical, and unlike so many other companies that use small portion sizes to make nutritional information seem healthier, Artisana deems that one portion. It’s certainly not out of the question that you would eat the whole bar in one sitting; however, two large pieces are quite satisfying.

If you do decide to scarf down a whole bar you will get a whopping amount of iron. The 65% has 40% of your daily requirement, the 75% has 50%, and the 85% has 60%. For comparison, 135 grams of tenderloin has 9% of your daily iron needs.

Even though the bars sport the same criollo bean, they are vastly different in flavor. The 65% is sweet, but not too sweet. There is a tantalizingly dry edge that appears just as it melts in your mouth and continues through the finish. The combination of silkiness with that hint of dryness is deliciously balanced.

The 75% bar has an earthiness complemented by its creamy texture. Dark fruits, plum, cherry, and raisin round out its profile.

Not for the faint of heart is the 85% bar. An intense bittersweet chocolate with just 7 grams of sugar in a 50 gram portion. The dry edge is most pronounced here. If Carl Jung were a chocophile he would talk about this being the shadow side of criollo, as its sweeter incarnations look so innocent, while this super dark version challenges you with its intensity. It’s designed for those of you who want the full metal jacket of cacao’s chemical bounty.

Nicobella Munch

Just as the ecotone, that transitional zone between two ecological communities, is not exact, so, too, the area where chocolate and food overlap. Nicobella’s line of Munch chocolates is both food and confection. Perhaps, because they are so good for you, and not too sweet, it is easy to think of them as a food; yet, their delicious crunch and deep, satisfying chocolate flavor makes them taste like a treat. That is not surprising, as Nichole Dandrea is both a registered dietician and chocolatier.

I sampled all three varieties, made with 75% organic, Fair Trade Kallari dark chocolate, and sold in 2 ounce bags. Each type is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

Maple-nut munch are clusters of maple coated roasted pecans and just a touch of sea salt. The combination of sweet and salty, with a abundance of textural interest makes these a fantastic mid-afternoon snack.

Omega munch is chock full of candied walnut and toasted flax seeds. This one’s texture is a little different, as the small toasted flax seeds add a second type of crunch, and the walnuts feel robust and filling. Another great choice when you need some energy, protein, and fat to keep your motor running.

Coco-nut munch is texturally different since it is saturated with unsweetened toasted coconut, giving it a much chewier texture. This variation offered yet a third riff on crunchiness, as the whole roasted almonds punctuated a softer textural profile with their super crunchy presence.

Since each is different from its sibling, I would suggest trying all three. If you sign up for Nicobella’s e-newlsetter she will send you a 20% off coupon for your first order, just in case you want some extra incentive.

Stirs The Soul: Fairly Traded, Raw, Organic Chocolate

If you love raw chocolate you will want to check out Portland Oregon’s Stirs the Soul. Their 82% and 84% chocolates are intensely nutritious and surprisingly gentle on the palate. I even like their motto: Bean to bliss.

Daren Hayes, a culinary school graduate, is the talent behind these treats. His passion for fairly traded, organic, sustainable, and wild-crafted cacao, combined with his choice of in house stone-ground 100% un-roasted Criollo & Trinitario beans infuses his creations with quality. In addition, Daren works in a facility that is nut, tree-nut(except coconut), soy, gluten, egg and dairy free, which makes their chocolate suitable for vegans and people with allergies. If that’s not tempting enough, their lines are gluten free, and offer a low glycemic index.

I sampled three of their products. A sweet little two ounce muslin bag full of chewy, fresh 84% coated dried bananas, figs and currants. I liked this combination of flavors and textures. Raw chocolate always feels super healthy, and a bit more like food than confection; so, I ate these with abandon knowing I was saturating myself with antioxidants.

Their Goji-orange bar, sweetened with raw dates offers up both dark 82% chocolate with chewy goji berries and an undertone of orange that beautifully enhances the whole experience. Gogi berries are known for their high levels of antioxidants, 21 trace minerals, 18 amino acids, and are believed to curb your appetite, promote restful sleep, and create a sense of well being.

Just one rectangle from the 84% plain bar sweetened with coconut palm sugar really satisfied my chocolate craving and offered a great pick-me-up before lunch.

These two bars weigh in at one ounce each, which helps with portion control, and makes them fit a pocket perfectly.

There are a plethora of creative options on their website. The bars are divided into four categories based on which sweetener is used: raw agave, coconut palm sugar, raw honey, and raw dates. I can’t think of any other company offering such an incredible diversity of sweeteners.

In addition to being able to buy these online, you can also find them at a number of co-ops and markets.

NibMor Organic Raw Chocolates

Just as every chocolate is somewhat different from the next, raw specimens can be wildly divergent. Some bars are creamier, some grittier, and others sweeter. NibMor, whose mission is to “merge health and delicious food into an affordable treat,” has created a softly textured, smooth, agave sweetened bar that satisfies a chocolate craving while obliterating any Calvinist guilt you might have about eating the stuff in the first place.

The food-like, slightly chewy texture quickly melts in your mouth. It seems as if the flavor is meant to appeal to a wide swath of the population, as it’s easy to eat, and the finish has just a hint of dryness. Considering it boasts 65% cocoa solids, this is a big plus for people steering away from milk chocolate towards darker varieties. If you are eating chocolate for health reasons, you are on a raw food diet, or you simply want to try something new and unusual, sample this bar.

NibMor makes four flavors of bars and four flavors of drinking chocolate.