Healthful Ways To Indulge Your Chocolate Cravings

Not all types of chocolate are created equal. These guises give you all the excuse you need to embrace your inner Willy Wonka.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The most healthful ways to indulge your chocolate cravings.

The Mayans touted chocolate as the “food of the gods.” And centuries later we are still held hostage to its luscious ways. A raft of research supports our favorite guilty pleasure—it’s showing that cocoa beans are jam-packed with potent antioxidants shown to help shave down blood pressure numbers, boost brain power and maybe even increase muscular endurance during exercise. But not all types of chocolate are created equal. These guises give you all the excuse you need to embrace your inner Willy Wonka.

Chocolate bars

It’s time to raise the bar on your daily treat. This blend of ground-up cocoa beans, cocoa butter and sugar is a source of cell-protecting antioxidants, feel-good compounds, magnesium and even energy-boosting iron. The higher the cocoa percentage, the less sugar and larger dose of antioxidants you’ll get, so look for brands with at least 60 percent cocoa.

Sneak more in:
Enjoy up to an ounce of dark chocolate daily, an amount that won’t put you into calorie overload. Melting dark chocolate into your morning oatmeal nearly turns breakfast into dessert.

Best buy:
Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate

RELATED: The Sweet Benefits Of Chocolate

Chocolate milk

The drink you loved as a kid can hasten recovery from your workouts. How? Studies show that the combination of carbohydrates, protein and fluid can replenish energy stores, kick-start muscle protein repair and alleviate dehydration following exercise. To prevent sugar overload, however, stick with unflavored milk at other times.

Sneak more in:
Following a workout, whip up a recovery smoothie made with chocolate milk, plain yogurt, frozen banana, peanut or almond butter and

Best buy:

Organic Valley 2% Chocolate Milk

RELATED: The 10 Best Protein Sources For Triathletes

Cocoa nibs

When cocoa beans are pulverized into small pieces, you end up with cocoa nibs. Often spelled “cacao,” these crunchy, pleasantly bitter gems are considered one of the most natural forms of chocolate you can consume. Beyond being laced with disease-thwarting antioxidants, cocoa nibs are a surprising source of dietary fiber—a single ounce delivers 9 grams.

Sneak more in:
A generous sprinkling of cocoa nibs can instantly make yogurt, granola, oatmeal, ice cream and even salads better. Also grind some with coffee beans to perk up your morning Joe.

Best buy:
Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Nibs

RELATED: Coconut Sports And Recovery Drinks

Cocoa powder

Cocoa powder is made when the cocoa butter is pressed from cocoa beans, leaving behind a cakey substance that can be ground into a fine powder which is lower in fat and calories than nibs and bars. Studies show that consuming cocoa daily can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, thereby helping slash the risk for coronary woes. But to get the full benefit of cocoa powder you need to choose wisely. What you want to look for is “natural” or “raw” versions instead of Dutch-processed, which treats the powder with alkali to mellow its flavor but lays waste to most of the beneficial antioxidants.

Sneak more in:
Mix into oatmeal, pancake batter and smoothies. A tablespoon or two can also lend chili a deep rich flavor. For a toasty drink, whisk together milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup, cinnamon and a whisper of cayenne; warm on the stovetop.

Best buy:
Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder

RELATED: Indulge Wisely

Chocoholics, rejoice. These items make it even easier to get your chocolate fix.

Food Should Taste Good Chocolate Tortilla Chips
It shouldn’t work but it does. Use as a vessel for holiday dips.

Big Spoon RoastersCocoa Nib Peanut Butter
A blend of roasted peanuts, dark chocolate and cocoa nibs is made fresh upon order.

GU Chocolate Peanut Butter Gel
All the savory-sweet motivation you need to tackle those long, hard workouts.

Bare Coconut Chips Crunchy Bliss
What better way to load up on dietary fiber than crunchy chocolate-covered coconut?

RELATED: Multisport Menu

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.