Chocolate is magic. It sparks glimmers in eyes young and old. That spark — shall we call it pure joy — isn’t imagined. Rather, it’s all part of the chemical reactions triggered by the complex cacao bean. And you don’t need dairy (or all that much sugar) to enjoy the benefits of chocolate. Vegan chocolate options abound. Here’s everything you need to know including our best vegan chocolate on the market.
Benefits Of Vegan Chocolate
Yes, benefits. As in, healthy.
Chocolate isn’t just candy. In fact, it’s a legitimate superfood — in the right setting, that is. Chocolate drenched in sugar and milk fat? That’s no different than any other candy bar out there. But chocolate where the cacao solids are at least 70 percent (aka “dark” chocolate), is loaded with healthy antioxidants and chemicals including anandamide (the “bliss chemical”). The name, if you’ve studied any Sanskrit, comes from the word “ananda,” which means “joy, bliss, delight.” If you’ve eaten chocolate, you certainly understand the sentiment. Cacao makes happy brains.
Chocolate is rich in anandamide, which triggers a serotonin response in the brain. Serotonin is the chemical we experience when we feel love or pleasure. It’s why chocolate is often associated with our love-filled holidays. It enhances the spirit of the seasons with its brain-altering boost. That boost equates to improved mood and may help to mitigate stress and panic attacks in those at risk.
Beyond the love chocolate may make you feel, it’s also giving love to your body by way of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
According to a growing body of research, the flavonoids in chocolate can be beneficial to your heart health. Consuming chocolate has been linked to a 37 percent reduced risk of heart attacks and a 29 percent decrease in stroke risk.
Dark chocolate is a powerhouse for minerals including nearly all of your RDA for copper and manganese, and more than half the RDA for magnesium. It’s also a rich source of plant-based iron, zinc, selenium, and potassium.
Theobromine, one of the chemicals in cacao is also linked to a reduced risk of preeclampsia. A potentially serious pregnancy complication that can elevate the mothers’ blood pressure, preeclampsia shows a 40 percent reduced risk in women who enjoyed “high doses” of chocolate during pregnancy.
The antioxidant-rich flavonoids (which give cacao its dark color), are great free radical fighters. This may make it a benefit in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.
11 Best Vegan Chocolate Bars & Brands
Want to sink your teeth into a hunk of vegan chocolate about now? These incredible chocolates, brands and boxes and all completely vegan.
The Vegancuts Premium Chocolate Box is the pinnacle of vegan chocolate. Each year Vegancuts searches the globe for the best vegan chocolate bars, bites, spreads, truffles, cookies and more. There’s really no better chocolate experience than this ultimate plant based chocolate box.
Vegan brands are innovating at a truly fast rate and Sourse’s Hype Bites are a prime example. These little bites actually supplement your B12 – so you can say goodbye to your daily B12 dose and hello to chocolate!
Chocolita infuse each bar with hidden herbs making them – not only deliciously tasty – but one of the most powerful chocolate bars on the planet. With flavors like Morning Matcha White Chocolate and Strawberry Passion Dark Chocolate – who can say no to these?
Have a craving for something a little softer than the standard chocolate bar? Whoa Dough bars are cookie dough treats – but healthier! What’s more is they come in a variety of flavors including chocolately ones like Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.
Theo Chocolate are organic and fair trade chocolate cups made from scratch in the US. It’s really no surprise these cups have won so many awards.
Taza are an ethical directly traded brand who have created simply addictive stone ground chocolate – that means they stone grind organic cacao beans into minimal processed chocolate.
Alter Eco are self-admittedly the cleanest and greenest chocolates on the market and for good reason. The vegan chocolate brand is helping farmers transition to sustainable agriculture which supports farmer livelihood and tackles climate change head on.
Raaka are fruity, floral and flavorful vegan chocolate you have to taste to believe. Their transparent trade model means you can trace exactly where your beans have come from.
But What Is Vegan Chocolate?
Vegan chocolate is simply chocolate is its purest form.
The seeds of the tropical cacao fruit, cacao or cocoa beans, are buried inside the fruit’s white pulpy flesh. About the size of a small football, cacao pods grow in equatorial regions across Africa, Central, and South America.
Cacao enjoys a long history of value; the Aztec and Incan empires were big fans. Cacao beans were even used as currency in what’s now Guatemala and parts of Mexico, according to anthropologists (1).
In its whole form, cacao is rich in fats — creamy cacao butter solids hold the naturally crumbly beans together. But when separated, the cacao solids, also known as cocoa powder, form the basis of what we know and love as chocolate.
Cacao butter is often mixed back in with cocoa solids as part of the tempering process — the mixture is then combined with sugar, flavorings or add-ins, and, sometimes milk in non-vegan chocolate or plant-based milk in some vegan chocolate. Tempering heats and cools the chocolate until it creates the snap-break texture of chocolate bars.
But by itself, cocoa powder enjoys many uses — in baking mixes, primarily. You’ll also find this in hot chocolate mixes as well.
Why Non-Dairy Chocolate?
The Aztecs and Incas rarely sweetened their chocolate. It wasn’t until the Spanish brought it back to Europe that iterations of the modern chocolate we eat and drink today began to emerge. But a growing number of chocolatiers are making chocolate with less sugar and without dairy for a cleaner, healthier, and less cloying experience.
That doesn’t mean milk is out of the equation, however. A growing number of manufacturers are emulating the milk chocolate experiences of childhood with dairy-free milk like almond and oat. But just like with traditional chocolate, the real benefits come by way of the rule: the darker the better. Opt for a dark chocolate bar or dark hot chocolate to reap the benefits of this magical fruit.