Is there actually such a thing as chocolate that’s good for you?! Or am I supposed to just feel less guilty about eating raw and dark chocolate, but really, still should avoid choccy full stop? We've all asked ourselves this question at one point or another.
Well with Easter around the corner, and the temptation to buy all of the chocolate treaties, here’s what we know…
Firstly, there is a huge difference between cacao (pronounced Ka-cow…like Ka-pow!!!) and cocoa (coco loco). Cacao is derived from mother nature, the Theobroma Cacao Tree, and is the unprocessed version of the cacao bean, that is simply dried and fermented. 100% natural. Cocoa powder, which is also know as confectionary chocolate (and we say confectionary because honestly, real chocolate with cacao and confectionary chocolate with cocoa are SO different) start at the same place but undergo serious chemical processing, heating, changing and adding. Now whilst this is great for look, feel, taste and shelf life or the chocolate, it is also proven that when cacao undergoes severe treatments, it loses so much of it’s natural goodness and so any health benefits we associate with cacao, has nothing to do with cocoa.
Now we ask organic vs non-organic?
The truth is that organic cacao is absolutely not the same as conventional cacao. These days, the pressure is on cacao farms to supply the ever-growing demand of the world's growing chocolate consumption and therefore, growth methods are on a serious speed up program. Hence, to achieve this demand, lots of antibiotics, sprays, GMO, toxic pesticides and fumigation chemicals are used, all to the detriment of the cacao’s s natural health benefits. As with any genetically modified fruit or vegetable, we see the nutritional value severely suffer when nature is interfered with.
What does Fair Trade actually mean?
Another point to consider is whether or not what your consuming is fair trade chocolate. Whilst this point isn’t exactly for your insides, it is a huge problem that affects many farming community’s world wide as many cacao farms contribute to slave labour, child abuse, poverty and dangerous working conditions. If nothing else, do your mind and soul a favour and steer clear of the exploitation. Fair trade ensures that the farmers are paid correct wages and subject to standardised working conditions.
Dark, milk or white?
There is so much talk and publicity around what you may or may not already know… keep it dark!! A lot of studies conducted will recommended serves which contain no less than 60% cacao as anything less usually means too much sugar and not enough cacao to have any real beneficial effect. Remember though, dark or not, processed chocolate barely, if at all, offers anything more that fat and sugar.
Additives and secondary ingredients, what's the low down?
Finally make sure you pay attention to “the extras” like the type and amount of sugars used to sweeten the block, the use of dairy products, the addition of preservatives, additives, colours and numbers and finally, the little tiny flavour inclusions that can be oh so yum, but oh so detrimental, like sugary fruits, toffees, syrups and so on.
And the end result - Is it actually good for you?
So then, provided your choccy block is ticking all of the good boxes above and unticking the nasties, you can absolutely expect cacao to provide the following wonderful benefits:
- A massive dose of anti-oxidants
- A high source of Iron (the highest of plant-based sources actually)
- Heaps of vitamins and minerals, specifically magnesium
- Lots of calcium (some claims proving it to be better bang for buck that cow’s milk!)
- Dose of happiness, energy and comfort
Each point a merit on its own to continue to enjoy the right chocolate and believe it is doing more good than harm!!