Posted by & filed under Healthy Eating.

If my observations at coffee shops, airports, and checkout counters are accurate, many of us are wild about the flavor of chocolate. And yes, I’m one of them. If you are too, I have great news: You do not—do not!—have to swear off your favorite treat to remain committed to healthful eating.

But not all chocolate is created equal. Milk chocolate, the basis of most candy bars, offers little or no benefit. Typical candy-bar chocolate tends to be overprocessed (which destroys many nutrients) and loaded with added fat, sugar, and preservatives that negate its good qualities. Milk chocolate certainly might satisfy your sweet tooth, but it’s not something that should be a regular part of your diet.

Fortunately, your choices today don’t end there. Read on for three of my favorite ways to enjoy the rich flavor of chocolate—and get disease prevention and energy benefits as well.

1. Raw, Organic Cacao Powder

Anything that even remotely relates to chocolate has my vote, but the original cacao bean can’t be beat. Since it’s the source of all chocolate and cocoa products, you won’t find a purer chocolate than this.

Cacao is a time-tested and beneficial food. South American cultures have enjoyed its healthful and invigorating properties for thousands of years. Modern science tells us why: Cacao is naturally rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber.

The only trick to getting your best boost from natural chocolate is to be sure you purchase the raw, organic product. I recommend buying raw, organic cacao in a powdered form because it’s so easy to incorporate into all kinds of food. I add cacao powder to smoothies, desserts, and sauces when I want a chocolate flavor. (And when don’t I? So, every day!)

2. Natural Chocolate-flavored Drink Powder

Yes, eating fresh fruits and vegetables is always best, but consider adding a whopping extra 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and veggies right into your breakfast using a nutritional drink powder. These convenient formulas can be mixed in fruit and yogurt smoothies or added directly to almond milk or water.

When you compare brands, look for an alkaline formula to optimize your body’s pH level. Also look for enzymes and probiotics that aid digestion and absorption. Remember it’s always best to choose products that are raw, organic, and sugar free. And, of course, choose a flavor that suits your taste. Chocolate, anyone?

Energy and nutrition drink powders are available in most health food stores, but you may find it more convenient to comparison-shop for these products online. Just type “chocolate-flavor natural drink powder” into your favorite search engine to get started.

3. Chocolate-covered Cacao Nibs

Bursting with real chocolate flavor, just a few of these morsels are enough to quell a chocolate craving fast. Even better: They are packed with healthful antioxidants.

When you shop for these treats, look for a brand made of 100 percent dark cacao nibs, covered in dark chocolate—that is, a chocolate with 70 percent or more pure cacao content.

Is your mouth watering? Mine is! See, maintaining wellness through a balanced diet doesn’t have to mean cutting out everything you crave. Commit to adding one of these beneficial and tasty choices to your menu this week. Then tune in next time. I’ll share a collection of nutrition-packed superfoods that you can easily add to your meals.

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