chocolate
Normally, vices aren’t good for you… except when it comes to chocolate. Thank God! But with so many brands and confusing labels like organic, fair-trade, shade-grown and rainforest alliance, it’s hard to figure out which ones are best. We’ll break it down for you and tell you our favorite brands. That way when you’re playing Easter Bunny in a few weeks, you and the kids can break off the best squares. And enjoy!

This sweet treat that some say is better than sex, is good for you in small quantities. It’s loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants and protect our bodies from aging caused by free radicals. Like red wine, the antioxidants protect against heart disease and help relax blood pressure and balance certain hormones in our bodies.

So now that you know it’s good for you, here’s what you should look for when buying your sweets.

Dark vs. Milk: Pick dark. The darker the chocolate, the less fat and more healthy fats like olive oil. It also has eight times the number of antioxidants than strawberries.

Organic: The cocoa trees used to make chocolate are grown without chemicals and pesticides. It also has organic ingredients like milk, sugar and natural flavorings.

Fair-trade: Most of the chocolate we eat in the US is imported. It’s also estimated that up to 40 percent of cocoa farms have slave laborers, some of which are children. When you buy fair-trade you know that the farms are paying their workers a fair wage, aren’t exploiting them and avoid cost-cutting practices that are destructive to the environment. Usually organic and fair-trade go hand-in-hand.

Rainforest Alliance: This certified chocolate is based on the three pillars of sustainability — environmental protection, social equity and economic viability.

Shade-grown: These cocoa trees are grown under the canopy of the rainforest rather than cutting down trees to create a clear-cut field. The trees grow better in the shade, are much more resistant to disease, and it creates a habitat for birds.

Now that you know what labels to look for, here are our favorite brands to snack on guilt-free. Green & Blacks, Theo, Newman’s Own, Chocolove, Cocoa Camino, Divine Chocolate, Shaman Chocolates, Ithaca Fine Chocolates , Endangered Species Chocolate and Equal Exchange.

What’s your favorite brand of organic chocolate?

Keep in touch with Brianne on Twitter

image: f10n4