Healthy chocolate treats to give or receive

Here’s great news about chocolate: Reams of research shows that enjoying dark chocolate can have positive health benefits, from improving your heart’s health to tamping down inflammation, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

The only catch is that the most health benefits associated with chocolate are present in dark chocolate that provides at least 70% cocoa. Cocoa is loaded with bioactive polyphenols and provides iron, zinc, magnesium and many other essential minerals. Milk chocolate lacks the impressive polyphenols and nutrients that make dark chocolate a healthy choice.

Since I identify as a bona fide chocoholic, I’m always on the lookout for ways to enjoy melt-in-your mouth chocolate with some health benefits. That generally means it contains a high percentage of cocoa or it’s infused with adaptogens, healthy add-ins or sweetened with allulose or some other natural, calorie-free alternative to sugar.

[See: Best Kitchen Gadget Gifts.]

5 Chocolate Treats for the Holidays

Here are five sweet ways to enjoy chocolate during the holidays:

Gatsby Almond Dark Chocolate Style

Developed by one of the co-founders of Halo Top, the popular low-sugar and low-calorie ice cream, this new brand of chocolate is the lowest calorie chocolate bar on the market. With half the calories and 75% less sugar than a traditional chocolate bar, Gatsby is a great option. A serving of Gatsby’s Almond Dark Chocolate Style (one third of a bar) has 70 calories, 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams fiber, just 2 grams added sugar and 2 grams of protein.

This chocolate is sweetened primarily with allulose, a calorie-free natural sweetener. It also has medium chain triglycerides, which are fats that are easier to burn as energy compared to traditional cocoa butter and other fats used to make most chocolate.

Kind Minis Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew

Kind Bars have been one of my longtime, go-to brands to get a healthy between-meal snack. They can also satisfy my desire for a chocolatey treat. One of my favorites is Kind Minis Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew. Each bar packs in positive nutrients because the bars are made with wholesome real foods like nuts, cherries, cranberries and raisins.

Each mini bar has 80 calories, 5 grams total fat, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar and 2 grams protein.

[SEE: Healthy Cookbooks for Your Holiday Shopping List.]

Elements Truffles Turmeric Infused Dark Hot Chocolate

This rich, bold-flavored dark chocolate feels like a salve for the soul. Made with organic Ecuadorian cacao and infused with turmeric root powder, a cup of this hot chocolate is teaming with beneficial polyphenols, like those found in red wine, which improve heart health.

Turmeric is a medicinal herb that is loaded with curcuminoids, bioactive compounds that are potent antioxidants that help tamp down systemic inflammation. Nutritionally, a delicious cup of this hot chocolate has 90 calories, 5 grams sugar and 4 grams fiber and 1 gram protein per serving.

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Lindt has dark chocolate bars that have exceptionally high cocoa levels, like this one at 85% cocoa solids. A serving has 170 calories, 4 grams fiber, a teaspoon of sugar and 4 grams of protein.

The benefits of such high levels of cocoa means that added sugar is lower. What’s more, because the dark chocolate is so intense, a little square will satisfy your cravings for chocolate.

[See: 9 Keto-Friendly Holiday Desserts.]

Lily’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

Combining dark chocolate with nuts is a winning duo in any nutritional playbook. The nuts provide healthy fats, fiber and essential nutrients, and the dark chocolate packs in antioxidants while enhancing the flavor and texture of almonds.

Lily’s uses stevia in their dark chocolate so there is no added sugar. The brand also includes chicory root fiber to boost the fiber in their delicious chocolates. A serving has 140 calories, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 6 grams of fiber, no added sugars and 4 grams of protein.

Healthier chocolate treats can be enjoyed — guilt-free — every day, as long as you keep portions in check and account for its calories. What’s more, enjoying some chocolate at the end of your lunch of dinner can help increase the satisfaction of your meals to help keep you on track.

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