It may sound too good to believe but chocolate can be healthy. Chocolate is made from cacao which is filled with vitamins, minerals fiber and tons of antioxidants. Cacao can enhance our moods by increasing serotonin and raising our endorphins. It can increase blood flow in our brains and give us energy when we need a boost. However, when you buy chocolate, it may not be so healthy. Lots of commercial chocolates have emulsifiers, fillers and trans fats, not to mention dairy products. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have chocolate. We either have to be sure we are buying really good, healthy chocolate or make our own. Luckily, it’s easy to make our own chocolate. Here are some simple tips and tricks to making healthy plant-based chocolates.

1. Use Raw Cacao or Good Cocoa

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We are all probably more familiar with cocoa powder. We have used it to make hot chocolate or added it to our desserts. However, many cocoa powders on the market have added extra ingredients or are extremely processed. It is possible to buy good cocoa powder – just be sure to read the label. Raw cacao is pure and much less processed. It has more antioxidants than any other food. To learn all about cacao and cocoa powder, read Cacao vs. Cocoa: What You Need to Know. Use raw cacao to make Raw Cacao Truffles, Raw Avocado Cacao Mousse, and Raw Cacao and Cardamom Cream Tartlets. For even more recipes, take a look at 20 Superfood Vegan Recipes Made with Raw Cacao.

 

2. Choose Dark Chocolate

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Instead of milk chocolate, indulge (in moderation) with dark chocolate. Flavanols, which are more prevalent in dark chocolate, have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve vascular function, possibly reducing the risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65 percent or higher but limit how much you eat because it still has significant calories (up to 450 calories for 3 ounces). Use dark chocolate to make this No-Bake Dark Chocolate Pumpkin PieMayim Bialik’s Secret Dark Chocolate Cookies, and this Special Dark Chocolate Vegan Cake.

 

3. Make Your Own Dark Chocolate

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Believe it or not, it’s easy to make your own chocolate. All you need is something chocolate, something fat, and something sweet. For the chocolate flavor, use organic cacao powder. The fat can come from coconut oil or if you want to double the chocolate flavor, use cacao butter. The sweetness can come from maple syrup or agave nectar. A little bit of vanilla adds extra flavor. Once you know how to make your own chocolate, you can make variations of it by adding orange zest, nuts, fruit or whatever flavors you like. To make Homemade Dark Chocolate: Combine ½ cup cacao butter, 2 Tbs. cacao powder, 1 or 2 Tbs. agave nectar, ½ tsp. vanilla and a pinch of sea salt over a double boiler. Mix until everything is smooth. Pour the chocolate into molds and refrigerate for a few hours. Then use it however you choose. For another recipe, check out How to Make Homemade Raw Dark Chocolate. Then make this Chocolate Raspberry Cake, Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Blizzard, No-Bake Dark Chocolate Pie, or Raw Dark Chocolate Cherry Cream Cups.

 

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4. Make Your Own Candy

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While it may make someone happy to receive a box of chocolate candy, imagine how good they will feel when they learn you made it for them by hand. You get to choose only the healthiest ingredients for those you love. You can easily make balls without any molds, use mini-cupcake liners to make chocolate cups or use any molds you might have to make bars and other fun shapes. Try your hand at making your own chocolate candies like these Swedish Vegan Chocolate BallsHazelnut Chocolate SnowballsOreo Chocolate Peanut Butter BallsThe World’s Healthiest Mounds Bar Fudge, Raw Snickers Candy BarsRaw Dark Chocolate Cream CupsRaw Cacao Sea Salt Caramel CupsVegan Ginger Chocolate Cups with Sesame-Cashew Butter and CaramelRaw Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fudge, Raw Chocolates Gift Box, Raw Cocoa Bonbons, and Wintery Mint Kisses.

 

5. Make Your Own Truffles

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One of the most decadent chocolate candies is truffles. They melt in your mouth and come in so many variations. They are easy to make and so much fun to decorate with different toppings. If you love truffles as much as I do, try these Chocolate Coated Hazelnut TrufflesClean Eating Pumpkin TrufflesPistachio Chocolate TrufflesRaw Hazelnut Chocolate TrufflesRaw Cacao TrufflesChocolate Truffles that Taste Like NutellaRaw Strawberry Cream Chocolate Truffles, Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles,  Chocolate Macadamia Butter Truffles and Raw Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles.

 

6. Add Other Healthy Ingredients

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Besides using only the healthiest ingredients for the chocolate itself, make sure you add other healthy ingredients into your chocolate creations. Nuts add healthy oils and protein while fruit gives you antioxidants and essential nutrients. Try these Almond Joy Bars, Healthy, Raw and Gluten-Free Snickers, Heart-Shaped Vegan Almond Butter Cups, Blueberry-Almond Dark Chocolate Bark, Chocolate Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, and Pumpkin Nut Butter Cups. Oats, quinoa and other whole grains can be used when making Healthy Vegan Toffee, Chocolate Bark, and Granola Bars. Even fudge can be healthy. Try The Healthiest Vegan Fudge Ever, Clean Eating Pumpkin and Pecan Fudge, and Healthy Chocolate Avocado Vegan Fudge.

 

7. Use Chocolate as an Accent

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Chocolate may be healthy but we still have to be smart about how we eat it. Instead of making chocolate the main ingredient, use it as a dipping sauce, drizzle, or glaze. Nothing is more sensuous than fruit dipped in chocolate like these Raw Superfood Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Make Homemade Chocolate Fondue: whisk together ½ cup natural cocoa powder and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Pour in ½ cup coconut milk and whisk while it simmers over low heat. Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Melt in 2 ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate. Transfer to a fondue pot and keep warm. Serve with cut-up pieces of fruit such as apples, bananas and strawberries, pretzels or cubes of your favorite cake.

Learn how to make an Easy Chocolate Glaze for Brownies and Desserts. To make a Dark Chocolate Drizzle, simply combine 1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips, 3 Tbs. vegan butter, 2 Tbs. agave nectar, a pinch of ground cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt in a medium saucepan. Over low heat, keep stirring until the chocolate melts and is smooth and glossy. If the chocolate is too thick, you can thin it out with a little non-dairy milk. Drizzle on whatever your heart desires. Use these chocolate sauces and drizzles as in this Pumpkin Cashew Cream Cake with Chocolate SauceChurros with Coconut Sugar and Chili Chocolate Sauce, Pumpkin Breakfast Loaf with Chocolate Drizzle, Almond Biscotti with Chocolate DrizzleGluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle and Breakfast Berry Smoothie with Cacao Drizzle.

Who says you can’t have your chocolate and eat it too? When you use the healthiest ingredients to make chocolates you can feel good about, you get to indulge a bit more than usual. Giving someone chocolates may show them that you like them but giving them healthy chocolates says how much you truly care.

Lead Image Source: How to Make Homemade Raw Dark Chocolate