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The Top 10 things to Know About Dairy Free Chocolate Revealed...

I'm going to let you in on a little secret that most people just don't know: you don't have to give up chocolate to be dairy free! In fact, dairy-free chocolate can be one of the richest, most satisfying sweets that you can enjoy. And it's even healthier than chocolate containing dairy.

chocolate dairy free what to knowThere are many reasons for a dairy-free diet. Maybe you have an allergy to dairy, are lactose intolerance, or you have chosen to be vegan. Or maybe you just want to be healthier and love the taste of dairy-free chocolate!

Whatever your reason, here are the top 10 things you should know about dairy free chocolate and how it fits into your lifestyle.

1. Chocolate is good for you.

In its purest form, chocolate is actually good for you. The health benefits of chocolate are indisputably proven by the scientific community. Cacao beans contain catechins, antioxidants that help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Raw chocolate is also proven to boost heart health, fight diabetes, and help protect you from strokes. Chocolate's flavanols also make people feel more alert and awake.

Chocolate is good for you, but it gets a bad reputation as a guilty pleasure or junk food. Why? Because of all the unhealthy additives mainstream chocolate manufacturers often put into their chocolates. They are often loaded with not only dairy products, but with white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils – which are all known to cause health problems that far outweigh the healthy benefits of the raw cacao bean.

2. Real chocolate is naturally dairy-free.

That's right, you heard me. Chocolate – real chocolate – doesn't contain one hint of dairy. Chocolate comes from the cacao bean, a raw ingredient. Cacao trees, mostly grown in Brazil and Ghana, grow fruits called cacao pods. Inside the pods are cacao beans: the raw ingredients for the chocolate treat you and I think of when we get a chocolate craving.

On their journey to becoming edible chocolates, cacao beans are then fermented, dried, cleaned, roasted, and shelled in order to become raw cacao nibs. The nibs are ground and liquefied, and usually processed into one of two things: cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Both of these are still dairy-free, despite the misleading word “butter.”

3. Commercial chocolates add dairy during processing.

So if cacao beans, cocoa butter, and cocoa solids don't have any dairy in them, how does dairy get into the candy bars and chocolate chips we see in the grocery store? Commercially sold chocolates are more than just ground up cacao beans. Mainstream chocolates, especially white chocolate and milk chocolate, are highly processed to contain dairy products like whey, lactose, powdered milk, milk fats, cream, casein, and caseinate.

Milk is used mainly to achieve a rich, creamy texture – but when you can't or don't want to include dairy products in your diet, it's just not an option for you. Luckily, there are many ways to replace the traditional dairy products used in processing many commercial chocolates.

4. Dairy Free Chocolates are Better for You

Did you know that dairy free chocolates combine the best of both worlds: the health benefits of pure chocolate without all the added bad stuff? It's true: popular mainstream chocolates are more heavily processed, while dairy free chocolates are more likely to be made in small batches using quality, organic ingredients and less preservatives.

So it isn't just the dairy products in mainstream chocolates that are bad for you – it's all the other stuff that gets added in during processing. Dairy free chocolates eliminate a lot of that. People who shop for special dairy-free chocolates obviously care about what they're putting into their bodies, and that's why milk-free is usually a good sign of high-quality chocolate that is less processed and better for you.

5. Dairy free chocolates are friendly for other allergies.

Do you have other dietary requirements besides being dairy-free? If you care about what you're really eating, chances are that you have a good reason. Dairy-free chocolates are not only delicious, they're good for satisfying a number of other dietary concerns.

A quick look online will show you that dairy free chocolates are more likely to also be vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, or soy-free. If you have other ingredients that you want to avoid, dark or cow milk free chocolates are likely to be your best bet.

6. Dairy free is a smart health move in itself

If you are lactose intolerant or milk allergic, it's obviously best to avoid dairy. But even if you don't think you have medical issues about dairy in your diet, you may want to think again. Lots of people are lactose intolerant without even knowing it. People only began drinking cow's milk a few centuries ago – and it's clear that the human body just isn't made for it. Dairy is linked to some very serious issues including:

• Allergies
• Sinus problems
• Ear infections
• Type 1 diabetes
• Headaches
• Childhood anemia and behavioral problems

Dairy can also aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and is linked with heart disease. Simply put, dairy poses many serious health risks – and the kicker is that it isn't really necessary for you in the first place. You can get the right amount of calcium and Vitamin D from a healthy animal-free diet, from many sources of food and vitamin supplements. People who go off of dairy say they feel better and it's even easier to control their weight.

7. You can find it at the “normal” grocery store.

It used to be that you had to go online, or drive to a faraway specialty health foods store to find the dairy free chocolate that you were looking for. Not anymore! So many more people are discovering the benefits of dark chocolate that you can often find it right in the baking aisle of the grocery store you shop at every day!

Have you been wheeling right past the chocolate in the baking aisle at the grocery store, assuming it all contains dairy? Turns out that you might be missing a great place for dairy free chocolate, and it was right under your nose the whole time. Next time you go shopping, you should stop and read a few of the labels to see what products are surprisingly dairy free, especially on the chocolate chips and the dark chocolates.

8. Dark chocolate is often naturally dairy free.

As we discussed before, it's usually milk chocolate and white chocolate that contains dry milk, milk fats, cream, or other dairy products. You may need to look for dairy-free versions of your favorite “milk” and white chocolates in specialty stores, but you might be surprised to find that the “regular” dark chocolate sold in your everyday grocery store is naturally dairy-free.

Dark chocolate in general is usually better for you, containing less additives and higher-quality ingredients. Of course you should never assume and always read the label of any dark chocolate, but you'll be surprised to find that many mainstream dark chocolates are dairy-free already. For those with severe dairy allergies, make sure to watch out for the possibility of cross-contamination. Some dairy-free dark chocolates might be processed on the same equipment used on dairy-containing chocolates, and the label should alert you to that.

9. Even specialty chocolates are dairy free.

Thanks to the rising number of people who care about what's really in the foods they eat, we've uncovered a lot of tasty ways to replace the milk ingredients we often encounter in even our favorite specialty chocolates. Seriously, the number of specialty chocolates available now amazes me. The demand for dairy-free products beyond just the basics has risen every year, and now there's basically no chocolate you can't find dairy free somewhere.

These days, it's easy to hop online and find specialty dairy-free chocolates – like “mylk” chocolate Easter bunnies, for example – that look and taste just like their dairy-containing counterparts. You can even get personalized dairy-free chocolates to give away as wedding favors or party goodies. There is virtually nothing you can't find animal-free, which should make you take heart! Even at holidays and special occasions, there is chocolate for you.

10. Homemade dairy-free chocolates are easy.

Even with the ease and convenience of ordering chocolate online or simply finding it in the baking aisle at the grocery store, sometimes it's nice to make it yourself at home. It eliminates any worries you might have about cross-contamination allergy issues, and besides, making your own dairy-free chocolate at home can become a really fun tradition to look forward to!

All you need to get started is some cocoa powder or raw chocolate. With your choice of sweetener and a candy mold, you can make any type of bars, bon bons, or chips you're craving. But don't stop there – also experiment with making your own dairy free cakes and cookies, hot chocolate drinks, and even melted dipping chocolate for fruit. Recipes are easy to find for dairy-free chocolates, and the best thing is that your guests won't even know the difference – unless you want to tell them that they're eating dairy-free, that is.

The best thing about dairy-free chocolate is that it gives you all the natural health benefits of pure chocolate and all the tastiness of chocolatey treats, without all the preservatives and unhealthy additives you normally find in mass-produced mainstream chocolate bars. There are so many more options now than there were even five years ago for those looking for milk-free chocolate.

And because people who seek out dairy-free chocolates care about what's in the food they eat, you can relax knowing that your chocolate is going to use high quality ingredients with none of the highly-processed ingredients known to cause harm. Dairy free chocolate is also compatible with a lot of other allergies and dietary requirements, too.

When I tell people I don't consume dairy, I'm always surprised by their first reaction – which is usually something along the lines of: “Oh, I could never give up chocolate!” And then I tell them that sometimes there are certain sacrifices involved in eating dairy-free, but chocolate never has to be one of them!

Dairy-free chocolates are delicious and better for you than “regular” chocolates. In fact, if I ever did go back to a dairy diet (which I wouldn't), I'd still continue getting my chocolate dairy-free. It's just better tasting and better for you.


Decadent Dairy Free Chocolates, The Perfect Gift to Buy for Your Loved Ones...

If you've got a holiday, anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion coming up – or if you just want to surprise someone close to you with a gift “just because” - nothing is a better gift to give than chocolate. And if your loved one is dairy free, it goes without saying that only the most decadent dairy free chocolates will do.

Whether your loved one is dairy free because of a milk allergy, a lactose intolerance, or general health consciousness, dairy free chocolates are the way to go. Chocolates can be a gift all to themselves, or they can be a wonderful complement to practically any gift.

chocolate trufflesYou might want to start by just checking out the amazing assortments of chocolates available to you in gift boxes or baskets. There's the delicious purity of dark chocolate, and if you like filling then you could get lost in the variety of velvety truffles filled with raspberry, rum, espresso, amaretto, or cherry. Chocolate-covered tasties like pretzels, almond clusters, or peanut butter or coconut balls are also favorites that your loved one will be sure to love.

Chocolates can also be given with other favorites to create a gift basket they'll never forget. How about an assortment of decadent dairy free chocolates with some of their favorite fruits? The combination of juicy fruit and sweet chocolate can never be outdone. Or how about a basket with everything you need to say “I love you,” like a romantic video, some massage lotion, a bottle of good wine, and a box of assorted dairy free chocolates?

No matter how you give it, dairy free chocolate is the perfect gift.  Did you know that many people who avoid dairy can feel the difficulty of finding their favorite sweet indulgence? Many commercial dark chocolates are naturally dairy free, but what about those who really loved the now-forbidden milk and white chocolate? Well, specialty dairy free chocolate can even substitute out those harmful dairy ingredients and give you a tasty “milk” chocolate that's even tastier than the real thing – and without the disadvantages of dairy products.

Chocolate is a perfect gift for anniversaries and birthdays. Moms and dads love it for Mother's Day and Father's Day. It even makes a nice care package to ease the homesickness of a loved one who's away at college or camp. Chocolate tells people “I'm thinking about you,” and when you make it dairy free it also says that you're thinking about their health and well-being.

Once upon a time, dairy free chocolates used to be dry, unappetizing, and the selection was pretty limited. But there is so much quality and variety now in the world of dairy free chocolate that you can truly say without reservation that you don't have to miss out on anything just because you don't eat dairy products. Decadent dairy free chocolates are a perfect way to tell someone just what they mean to you, and there is something that will appeal to the taste buds of everyone one your list.

 *All articles copyright © Rebecca Bond