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This post has been entered in Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS and Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Wheatless Wednesdays at Naturally Knocked Up!**

Chocolate.

Is it good or bad?  There’s quite a debate out there about this right now.  Some are saying chocolate is good, because is contains so many antioxidants and flavonols and other “beneficial” chemicals.  Others say it’s bad, because of its caffeine content and some of the chemicals it contains….  So, clearly, there’s disagreement here! 

We can all agree on one thing: chocolate candy is bad for you, because of the loads of sugar and additives.  No one’s going to argue that eating a Hershey bar is good for you (actually, come to think of it, some dieticians have recently made the news for arguing more ridiculous things, like that a marshmallow is better for you than a cup of yogurt…isn’t that sad?).  But what about good, dark chocolate?

There are really two types of dark chocolate: that which is made as “eating chocolate” and is formed into candy.  We’re talking Hershey’s Special Dark and other similar chocolates, which really have a rather low percentage of cacao in them (they don’t list how much on the label).  Non-organic and non-fair-trade varieties fit here, too, which are often processed with solvents and at high temperaturesThe second type is organic, fair-trade, high cacao percentage (60% or higher).

For the first type, there are a lot of steps to the processing, involving quite a lot of crushing, mashing, heating, and more.  This processing decreases nutrients, and unfortunately increases lead to dangerous levels.  Often, soy lecithin is added (likely genetically modified) and the cocoa powder is treated with alkaline.  For these reasons, this type is probably best avoided.

It’s important to note that the “cocoa powder” you buy in the store is not the same as the “raw cacao powder,” which we’ll talk about next.  This cocoa powder is created by removing most of the cocoa butter, adding alkaline, and pulverizing the resulting solid block.  It’s heavily processed and contains chemicals.

What about raw cacao?

Raw cacao is directly from the cacao tree and isn’t put through these processing steps.  This is the type that many health conscious writers and researchers have recommended, including Dr. Mercola, Mike Adams (the Health Ranger), and others.  However, Sally Fallon doesn’t recommend consuming even this type of chocolate, so the controversy isn’t over!

Why might Fallon, and others, be against chocolate?  Here is a quote from Natural News explaining why:

In addition, cacao also contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that we create naturally when we’re excited. It also plays a role in feeling focused and alert because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when we are excited or fall in love!

Another ‘bliss’ chemical found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide. It’s there in our brain when we feel great. Anandamide is also called “chocolate amphetamine” as it causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, leading to feelings of excitement and alertness.

Chocolate contains many chemicals in and of itself.  I’m not sure that ‘causing your pulse rate to quicken’ or ‘changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels’ are necessarily good things.

Additionally, cacao also contains theobromine, which has caffeine-like effects.  It also effects the nervous system (causing hyperactivity and then lethargy; and sometimes headaches) and functions as a diueretic.  Theobromine can be addictive, and can stimulate the heart, cause nausea, vomitting, and sleeplessness.  It can also reduce coughing by relaxing smooth muscles, and can be used in the treatment of asthma.

Additionally, chocolate contains oxalic acid, which is known to block the absorption of calcium and magnesium, by binding with them and being excreted in the urine as oxalates.  Sugar combined with chocolate makes the issue worse (and even 90% cacao bars contain 10% sugar!).  Although it is a naturally occurring compound (also found in spinach and other vegetables), it is not a needed nutrient and too much can be dangerous.  In fact, long-term consumption forms calcium-oxalate, which turn into kidney stones!  While chocolate probably does not contain enough to be detrimental as an occasional treat, it’s something to think about.

On the other hand, cacao also has more antioxidants per ounce than almost any other food on the market.  100 grams of raw cacao powder has an ORAC score of 95,500 (antioxidant rating) vs. only 25,300 in the same amount of Goji berries.

My research tells me that, in a perfect world, we probably wouldn’t eat chocolate.  Its potential negative effects outweigh the positives, especially in sensitive individuals (if you get a headache from eating a small amount of dark chocolate — don’t do it anymore!).

If you do consume chocolate, choose only high quality raw cacao and consume it on rare occasions and in small amounts.

Chocolate may be used more successfully as a type of medicine, rather than a food.  Those who already have calcium deficiencies, kidney stones, hyper-sensitivity to caffeine or theobromine, etc. should simply avoid chocolate.

What do you think?  Do you eat chocolate or not?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (5), Daniel (4), Jacob (2), and Nathan (born March 2013). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children. You can also find her as a contributor at Keeper of the Home.

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12 Comments

  1. I most definitely eat chocolate. I keep a bag of Hershey Kisses so I can sneak one or two after dinner when I'm craving something sweet. My husband eats the 90% dark chocolate and when I tried it I literally could not swallow it, lol. Blech. I am under no illusion that milk chocolate Hershey bars are at all good for me, but I don't think a little bit will hurt, either. :)

    Reply

  2. This post makes me wonder what you DO eat. ;) If raw, unprocessed cacao is so bad for you (because of the *naturally* occurring chemicals?) then my goodness, what is safe? I'm all for healthy eating, especially staying away from highly processed foods, but this post really seems to take the principle too far.

    Reply

  3. Have you heard of/researched Cold-pressed chocolate? http://cocoeffects.com/ My brother-in-law sells this-his daughter(our niece) was diagnosed last year with PKD(Polycystic Kidney Disease) and cannot have caffeine, this chocolate is never cooked so it does not contain any caffeine and retains 100% of it's anti-oxidand and nutritional value. It helps with inflammation-and has helped considerably with her pain. Also, when I googled for some information myself I came across another great use-http://www.revolutionhealth.com/stories/stories/show/837f53fa5c6e466a814ce3d8871c05af Haven't really researched heavily on the issue myself, but thought it could be something of interest to you if you'd like to look into it!

    Reply

  4. I appreciate your article. Finally somone had the nerve to say something:) I am very sensitive to any food that is basically toxic and chocolate is most assuredly one of them. My husband is a kinesiologist and chocolate always shows up toxic on people.

    I used to want to be a nutritionist but after 10 years of working in a health clinic I became too discouraged because most people don't want to know the truth. They want to do what they want, when they want.

    Thanks for what you do, your articles are refreshing!

    Reply

  5. I don't think I could ever do away with chocolate in my life. Good or bad I guess it's best not to be extreme with it like a lot of other things. I do like the very pure chocolate, and usually will only need one square. We also use carob in our cooking and we do like it but in a very different way. It just doesn't replace a chocolate fix. We avoid processed foods in our home, but don't feel like a few here and there are going to drastically affect us.

    Reply

  6. Amber,

    No, I've never heard of that type of chocolate. But I do think chocolate has some definite medicinal uses. I just don't think we should literally eat "like candy" as we do!

    Emily,

    Not ALL things natural are beneficial to us. Chocolate is one of those foods that have always kind of been on the fence, like alcohol, tea (to some, although I drink it!), etc. Anything that contains caffeine or any other type of "drug." Certainly I still eat plenty — meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruits, grains! I just think that foods that DO contain potent natural chemicals would be best minimized.

    Reply

  7. I love chocolate but my body does not. I started eating more raw foods and came across cacao, and made some yummy treats out of it. My body went out of wack within a week and I ended up with severe adrenal fatigue, which took a few months to recover from. I still notice a difference in my mood when I eat processed chocolate, but I do have it once in awhile, because I crave it. Some people call cacao "crackao", and I agree, it is like a drug. The bad outweighs the good in it, for me. A good alternative is carob powder, not as bitter as cacao and is good and good for you.

    Reply

  8. Great post! I am a chocolate lover and it is one thing that I can not give up completely. However, I do eat it in moderation and only eat the highest quality, darkest chocolate I can find. I love that my local health food store sells dark cocoa powder in bulk for a very reasonable price. It's great to make my own chocolate candies. Only in moderation though! :)

    Reply

  9. Hi Kate – I do love chocolate very much, but I have found that since I started eating real foods, I crave it less, or if I do eat it, I can get away with eating much, much less than I used to. I do keep chocolate around most all the time, but it's always the organic, fair-trade variety with about 5 ingredients in it. No GMO, no awful chemicals or sweeteners in it. We end up going through a normal-sized bar maybe every two weeks or so.

    Last year I was actually selling a product called Xocai chocolate – something that is a raw, cold-pressed chocolate. The health claims made about this product are fairly large – that its ORAC value is higher than just about any food you could eat, and of course, it is compounded in the chocolate to contain a higher amount that it would in nature – and it also contains the acai berry. I had a hard time selling this chocolate because it was so expensive and many people simply couldn't afford it (yeah, $130 a month), and neither could I. And while it does taste good and I'm sure it has *some* health benefit to it…I'm not convinced that it's a health food that actually cures various diseases like Diabetes, tooth problems, etc. I mean, good grief, it does contain sugar (albeit evaporated cane juice), but I just don't see how that could make those health issues *better*. I think real food goes a long way toward that, and more than something like chocolate. This product is actually billed as not being a candy, but like a vegetable! I also believe what Rami Nagel says about chocolate – that it contains nutrient inhibitors like phytic acid and can actually prevent our bodies from absorbing nutrients. So I continue to love chocolate, but eat the best I can find, and sparingly. :)

    Reply

  10. Oy – I am a chocoholic :( I eat organic semi-sweet morsels out of the bag. We've joked (but I guess it's really no joking matter) about me getting an IV drip! I really would love to decrease the amount I eat (which is waaaay too much – daily) but kicking the habit has proved very difficult. I've always been thankful I never started smoking or got too far over into drinking because I have some idea of what addiction is about with this. I've made so many other positive changes that I hope I'm mitigating at least some of the negative effects and I keep hoping I reach that magical point (like some others have suggested) that it just won't have as strong a hold on me. Any suggestions for specific foods that help?? Or am I just gonna have to do it the old fashioned way and go cold turkey??

    Reply

  11. I don't think you have to go cold turkey. I agree with a previous poster, as you move more whole good foods into your diet/life you will start seeing a craving for less chocolate. You might relate to this though. Today, enroute to another city an hour away, I stopped at the usual place to pick up our raw milk. They were out. We did buy two raw milk cream though. In disappointment over the milk, I walked into another store a bought two Dr. Pepper Dublins, and some homemade honeycomb candy. I ended up getting about 1 ounce of the soda, and I'm fine with it.
    After an hour drive realized that I left the honeycomb candy behind. I really thought I'd freak since I don't get anything like this often, but you know, I didn't. A year ago I would have. So, I've progressed and today proves it.
    I may have to eat a whole wheat carob chip muffin which is stashed in the freezer for emergencies.

    Reply

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