Valentine’s Day is coming. And you know what that means: Stores flooded with cards, embarrassing (and eco-unfriendly!) mylar balloons, and every type of chocolate imaginable.
Of course, the temptation to indulge is stronger than ever with promises of sweet chocolate bliss around every corner. But instead of resorting to the almost irresistible deal on truffles stuffed with sugar, we’ve done some research (read: taste-testing and label reading) to find the best body-loving treats to get your chocolate fix.
If you’re following the modern “Paleo” lifestyle, it may be difficult to know which modern foods qualify as “Paleo-approved”. Well, chocolate lover, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Chocolate is not out of the question. In fact, real dark chocolate is an indulgence you can feel good about enjoying.
However, the key is to understand which chocolates most closely resemble the foods to which our ancestors would have had access. That’s why we’ve prepared this easy, go-to guide for picking the best bars to grace your cupboard and satisfy your sweet tooth.
But first, let’s look at the difference between what might be considered “Paleo chocolate” and any ol’ bar on the shelf:
Go Dark for the Healthiest Paleo Chocolate
Dark chocolate is the cream of the crop… without the cream. Instead of filling the bar with milk solids, they keep the essence of the bean as proven by a percentage. The higher the percentage on your dark chocolate, the more cacao in the bar! This is important not just for the tasty flavor but for antioxidant power as well. Dark chocolate, in moderation, should be viewed as a form of self-medicine, instead of a decadent dessert or treat for when we’ve been good.
Cocoa’s ability to promote health and reduce inflammation make it the ultimate (delicious) superfood. A little here and there will not only boost your ability to quell free-radicals, it can boost your mood as well! Chocolate doesn’t just taste good and therefore makes you feel happy. It increases the release of endorphins, bringing a pep to your step. The phenethylamine found in cocoa also promotes healthy cholesterol levels, while increasing the happy helper serotonin. Win, win!
Less is More
If you’ve ever read the back of a bag of M&M’s, you know those simple little treats contain quite a list of chemical components – not to mention the first ingredient… sugar. And despite their sweet, nostalgic taste, those little guys do harm your body and do real chocolate a real disservice, by masking the true essence of the delicious cocoa bean.
When choosing your dark Paleo chocolate bar of goodness, aim for one that has minimal ingredients and less sugar. Raw cane sugar and coconut palm sugar are common to cut the bitterness, but never should you see high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners!
Stick with Organic
Like most other nutrient-rich products, sticking with organic will ensure the purest chocolate. Since cocoa trees tend to be easily infected, conventional crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Choosing organic chocolate will help you to avoid the common (though not often discussed) pesticides in conventional chocolate candy.
Of course, even considering the benefits of dark chocolate, it should still be used as a healthy form of indulgence. A small pick-me-up in the afternoon, or a mini dessert just after dinner. Just a couple of squares to get your fix… without the sugar hangover. OK, so we’re all on board the dark chocolate train! Now, on to our pre-approved list…
Below, are some of our favorite paleo-approved chocolate bars that are sure to please even the most discerning connoisseur. You can probably find this at your local grocery or health food store. And they’re available on Amazon as well. But as with all non-perishable items, we recommend purchasing from our friends at Thrive Market. Not only do they offer free shipping, but there is simply no other retailer we know of that offers healthy foods at prices so low (see price comparisons below).
- Theo Salted Almond ($4.50 on Amazon / $2.85 on Thrive – 37% discount) Even at 70% cocoa, this bar manages to let the creamy sweetness shine just enough to feel like a true indulgence. That’s likely thanks to the hint of fleur de sal and vanilla, which help to boost the taste of sweetness. Salted chocolate is backed by science as a delicious combination. Our bodies tell us we want and need these flavors for survival. Together, the salty-sweet combination is a natural stimulator. Toss in some smoky almonds for a nutty crunch and this bar really can’t be beat. Theo brand even has a line of aphrodisiac chocolates if you’re looking for an even stronger mood boost for your Valentine’s Day pleasure!
- Green & Blacks 85% Dark ($6.39 on Amazon / $2.95 on Thrive – 54% discount) The simple yet elegant label automatically gives this bar an upgrade from the days of noshing on Snickers (gasp!), but what matters most is what’s on the inside. As far as dark chocolate goes, this 85% cocoa gives you just enough bitterness without overpowering your taste-buds. Instead, the creamy notes of vanilla smooth it out for a delicate, silky mouthfeel. They keep the added sugar minimal at just 8 grams for 12 pieces. With a sleek wrapper and smooth chocolate, you can feel confident putting this in your honey’s care package or just snagging a square midday.
- Lulu’s Love Truffles ($7.99 on Amazon / $4.53 on Thrive – 43% discount) Truffles are often the chocolate treat we gift to others, but rarely splurge on for ourselves. This dairy-free spin on our holiday indulgence not only rivals the festive, fancy box, it runs circles around it! With creamy hazelnut butter filling each cacao heart, you’ll get that nutty fix with minerals and flavonoids that improve circulation and heart health! Talk about a “love truffle!”
- Righteously Raw Superfood Maca and Cacao ($5.99 on their website) In honor of Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t forget about the powerful root that is often overlooked. Aphrodisiacs, step aside, maca is here to boost your libido and balance your endocrine system on a deeper level. This nutty ingredient brings energy as well as a smooth flavor to this truffle bar. That’s right! This is no ordinary bar of chocolate. It’s filled with a naturally sweet blend of dates and raisins, yet maintains a low-sugar profile. With all these bonuses, it’s hard to believe it packs over 55 phytonutrients! Break you off a piece of that Maca Root Bar!
- Pure 7 100% Dark ($4.65 on Thrive Market.com) That’s right, folks. 100% purrre cocoa here! And some cocoa butter to turn it into a bar, of course. This sugar-free option is not for the faint of heart. The bitterest of them all, Pure 7 100% Dark will bring you the superfood benefits of cocoa while helping to clear the palate. This is also a great option if you’re looking for a Paleo baking chocolate. You can melt it down and add in almond butter, hazelnut butter, stevia, or simmered berries for a chocolate of your own creation!
- Alter- Eco Brown Butter ($2.75 on Thrive Market.com) There are some fun and funky chocolate flavors out there, like salted caramel or lavender, but this one is not to be missed. It’s warm, salty-sweet butter flavor is a delicious counterpoint to dark, decadent chocolate. This chocolate bar blends the bitter 70% cocoa with golden butterfat for a silky smooth, custard-like candy.
- Dagoba Beaucoup Berries (~$2.99/ bar) Before tuning into Thrive Market, we often sourced our dark chocolate needs from a near-by, organic friendly store like Whole Foods. That’s where we discovered the many flavor profiles of Dagoba. This bar quickly became a post-dinner favorite, with its deep layers of spices really shining through the creaminess. Of all the flavor choices, we love the Beaucoup Berries for that sweet-tart combination with a fun texture.
- Sweet Riot Kickin’ Coconut ($3.99 on their website) Coconut has this natural way of sweeping us to the islands for a tropical getaway. What better way to enjoy your chocolate, or treat a loved one, than in a sweet bar reminiscent of vacations past? Packed with fat-burning medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in every chewy bite, this slightly bitter, yet gently sweet bar will take you out of that winter tundra into coconut paradise.
- Taza Stone Ground Chocolate with Toffee ($6.89 on Amazon / $3.45 on Thrive – 50% discount) If you’re new to the dark chocolate world and find the bitterness is a little too much, you might quickly abandon your bar and turn to the sugary option at the counter. Fear not! You can still get a high cocoa bar with much less sugar than a typical Halloween stash. The blend of stone ground chocolate and crunchy toffee gives this bar a unique feel with layers of flavor. At 60% cocoa, you’re still getting the benefits of this superfood without as much bitterness. But indulge responsibly: half a bar contains 15 grams of sugar.
- Pascha Dark Chocolate with Lucuma (~$3.99/bar, Available on Amazon, in select stores) We stumbled across this chocolate on our search for the lowest allergy triggering dark chocolate out there. This bar doesn’t even come close to nuts, dairy, soy, eggs or gluten, so it really is a pure, allergy-friendly form of the superfood cocoa. They take their fruit seriously and cut the sugar with a Peruvian super-fruit. Lucuma is known as the Gold of the Incas for a reason: its natural sweetness boosts this bar without boosting your blood sugar! With a silky, smooth chocolate like this, it’s hard to believe it’s dairy-free with only 8 grams of sugar per serving!
- Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate ($3.75 on their website, available on Amazon) One of the most-loved combinations is the cool mint with the sweet, creamy chocolate. From mint chocolate chip ice-cream to the after-dinner melt-away mints in the green foil packages (often shoved in pockets by the handful!). With those days long gone, we’re thankful to find a multi-textured, minty bar to get our nostalgic chocolate-mint fix. This dark chocolate embodies both the smooth, melt in your mouth feel of ice-cream with the crunch of chocolate chips thanks to peppermint crisps. Plus, they don’t add soy lecithin as an emulsifier, so your mint chocolate experience is as pure as it comes.
- Giddy YoYo Spicy 76% ($4.99 on their website) If you’re looking to spice things up, look no further than this trifecta of heat. We’ve dabbled in recreating a Mexican Hot Chocolate, but this bar takes the classic to a new level of hot. No, it’s not so spicy that it’s melting itself, but it will leave your throat with a lingering warmth. Packed with true cinnamon, cinnamon essential oil, and cayenne pepper, this chocolate will help lower your blood sugar instead of packing in the sugar! At 76% cocoa, the blend of spicy and bitter will be sure to get your blood flowing!
- Superfood Mandarin Orange Sculpt ($4.99 bar on their website, select stores) By now, we’ve all permanently engrained in our brain that chocolate can and should be treated as the superfood it is. To turn to a less than delicious bar is a disgrace to the cocoa bean. Good Superfoods decided to take it a step farther and create chocolate bars that have added boosts of health benefits. In this bar, the mandarin orange enhances the chocolate flavor while helping to boost your immunity. They pack it with probiotics, antioxidants, various tea extracts and flavorful oils that emerge between each bite.
What is your favorite Paleo chocolate bar?