It's everyone's favorite superfood, including mine. And it really is healthy: Chocolate with high cocoa flavanol levels can help lower blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol, science says. That doesn't mean I eat candy bars all day, of course—nor should you. Instead, focus on chocolate in its most virtuous forms to get more of the good stuff (antioxidants) and less of the not-so-good (sugar). Try these three picks— a "dose" a day is enough to net you some benefits.
1. Dark Chocolate
I choose chocolate made with 70 percent cocoa or higher. The best bars, chips, and chunks have short ingredients lists: cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier like soy lecithin, vanilla extract, and not much else.
Daily Dosage: Stick to a 1-ounce serving, says Abby Langer, R.D. It'll hit the sweet spot for not too many calories.
- Coated Nuts: Toss nuts in melted chocolate for a decadent snack. Scatter with flaky salt.
- Choco Chili: To make a rich pot of chili, stir in a few ounces of dark chocolate when you add the tomatoes.
- Fruity Fondue: Dunk your favorite fruits—I like berries and orange wedges— into melted chocolate. (Add flavor with a dash of almond extract.)
- Extra-Hot Cocoa: In a pot over medium heat, whisk dark chocolate with 2 percent milk and a pinch of chili powder.
- Icy Banana Bites: Cut a banana into coins and pour on melted chocolate. Freeze on a parchment-lined baking tray; store in a freezer bag.
2. Cocoa Powder
I'm talking about unsweetened cocoa powder, not the sugary hot-chocolate-packet stuff. Real-deal cocoa is surprisingly low in cals. Look for the kind that doesn't say "Dutch process" or "processed with alkali" on the label—that's code for "less antioxidants."
Daily Dosage: One tablespoon of cocoa powder has 2 grams of fiber and even a bit of protein.
- Healthier Truffles: In a food processor, blend ¼ cup cocoa powder, 10 pitted dates, 1 1∕2 cups walnuts, and a splash of water. Use your hands to roll mixture into balls. Chill on a parchment-lined tray.
- DIY Mocha: Coffee + cocoa powder + ground cinnamon + a little milk = an easy, better-for-you mocha. (You can add a teaspoon of sugar, if you like.)
- Overnight Oats: Add a scoop of cocoa powder and this make-ahead breakfast becomes dessert-ily delicious.
- No-Guilt Pudding: Blend a peeled, pitted avocado with 6 Tbsp almond milk and 2 Tbsp each cocoa powder and honey. It's a creamy-good superfood take on a pudding cup.
- Pumped-Up PB: Doctor a jar of peanut butter by stirring in a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder, a splash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Spread it on anything that wants salty sweetness: celery sticks, whole-grain crackers.
3. Cacao Nibs
Daily Dosage: You'll net antioxidants, potassium, and magnesium in 1 teaspoonful.
- Granola Upgrade: Nib up your favorite healthy granola recipe—just add the nibs right before baking. Unsweetened coconut flakes are nice in there too.
- Super Smoothie: Whir nibs into a raspberry-yogurt smoothie. They add bits of satisfying crunch throughout (kind of like a cookies-and-cream milkshake).
- Tricked-Out Toast: For a quick, satisfying breakfast, top whole-grain toast with almond butter, banana slices, and cacao nibs.
- Salad "Crumble": Combine nibs, goat cheese, and chopped unsweetened dried cherries. Serve over spinach (or any other leafy green).
- Breakfast Bowl: If you haven't tried morning quinoa yet, you've gotta. Load up a bowl of cooked quinoa with a dollop of yogurt, pear slices, and nibs. Top with a drizzle of maple syrup.
This article originally appeared in the April issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.