by Associate Clinician Victoria Fisher
Chocolate is the most popular candy in the world, but much of it is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes and flavors, and GMO ingredients. Do not despair, though! You can still enjoy this decadent pleasure without feeling too guilty or sabotaging your normal eating habits.
If you consume the right kind of chocolate, you can actually gain some health benefits, as well as enjoy the wonderful taste. Raw cacao powder contains theobromine, which is an anti-oxidant that also acts as a mild central nervous system stimulant. Raw cacao powder also contains phenethylamine, which is a serotonin-like chemical that boosts mood and increases overall feelings of pleasure. Dark chocolate contains both theobromine and phenethylamine, but in smaller amounts than raw cacao powder. Raw cacao powder has four times as much anti-oxidant power as dark chocolate. It also contains more protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, and magnesium than dark chocolate. Both raw cacao powder and dark chocolate have the added benefits of decreasing blood pressure, increasing HDL and lowering LDL, improving vascular elasticity, and improving insulin resistance. This does not mean that diabetics and people with high blood pressure should gorge on chocolate! Instead, reach for raw cacao powder, which has all of the health benefits of dark chocolate with almost none of the sugar.
Milk chocolate does not contain the level of anti-oxidants and beneficial phytochemicals that raw cacao powder and dark chocolate do. Milk chocolate contains more sugar (or corn syrup), partially hydrogenated oils, and dairy products, all of which block the absorption of anti-oxidants. This cancels out all the health benefits of raw cacao powder and dark chocolate. White chocolate contains no cocoa solids, so it isn’t truly even chocolate. This also means that it has none of the beneficial phytochemicals that raw cacao powder and dark chocolate contain, so it has no health benefits.
When buying chocolate, look for organic, fair trade raw cacao powder or dark chocolate. If you are looking to buy chocolate bars, try brands like Endangered Species, Green & Blacks, Theo Organic, or Alter Eco. If you’re feeling crafty, make your own chocolate treats using organic raw cacao powder (like Navitas Natural or Sunfood). You can easily find recipes for peanut butter or nut butter balls, or check out our cookbook for out Chocolate Earth Balls recipe. Here is a simple recipe for Primal Fudge:
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup nut butter of your choice
½ cup cocoa
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
Melt the coconut oil, then place in blender or food processor with all other ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into paper or silicon muffin cups, filling to 1/2″ full. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes or place in freezer for 10 minutes. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Optional: Sprinkle coarsely-ground sea salt over each fudge treat before chilling.