Is dark chocolate good for you?

We’re told it is, but is it really?

Dark chocolate is promoted as a health food. We’re constantly told about its many health benefits and how eating a few squares a day can help us live longer.

But, is dark chocolate actually good for you?

We hate to tell you this, but the answer is no. Any type of chocolate, including dark chocolate and organic chocolate, is not beneficial for your health.

The cacao bean itself (from which chocolate is made) is nutritious and has been known to reduce inflammation, modulate the immune system and balance blood sugar levels. However, by the time it’s made into a chocolate bar, the cacao has lost its nutritional value.

In this article, we’ll be discussing what chocolate is made of, how it’s manufactured, and the negative impact chocolate has on our bodies. Discover how to increase your antioxidant levels without compromising your health.

Cacao vs. cocoa – what’s the difference?

In simple terms, cacao is the raw version of cocoa. The cacao beans are picked from the Theobroma cacao tree and either chopped up to make cacao nibs or cold-pressed to make cacao powder. Cocoa on the other hand is highly processed. Non-organic cocoa is heavily treated with toxic pesticides and chemicals, depleting the beans further. Cocoa is widely used in commercial chocolate bars, hot chocolate powders and baked products as it’s cheaper than cacao.

How is chocolate made?

Making chocolate is not a simple process. After the cacao beans are picked, they are fermented, cleaned, dried and roasted at a high temperature before being chemically processed.

The beans are then cracked from their shells and ground down using a stone roller to make a paste (cocoa mass). Cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa mass using a hydraulic press. The cocoa butter is further refined and heated before eventually turning into chocolate.

Undergoing such an extensive manufacturing process means the cacao beans lose a significant amount of their nutritional value and antioxidants.

The negative effects of chocolate

Here are some important things to know about chocolate before you unwrap your next bar:

• It contains high levels of toxic heavy metals including cadmium, aluminium and lead. The soil in which cacao beans grow tends to have a high concentration of these metals. If not excreted, heavy metals are stored in the body and can wreak havoc with your health.

• Poisons your cells. Non-organic cacao beans are heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides and fertilisers which easily absorb into the beans due to their high fat content. These toxic chemicals remain active and make their way into chocolate bars, ultimately ending up in your cells.

• It’s highly addictive. The high sugar and fat content of chocolate makes it very moreish and addictive. Chocolate also contains two amino acids,

tryptophan and phenylethylamine, which help the body produce happy hormones and feelings of elation and euphoria. This is another reason why people become addicted to chocolate.

• Can cause weight gain and increased BMI (Body Mass Index) due to its high calorie content. The average chocolate bar contains 229 calories which takes approximately 22 minutes to run off. With such high calories and low satiety, eating chocolate easily stacks weight on.

• Triggers blood sugar imbalance due to its high sugar content. Chocolate has a high Glycaemic Index (GI) meaning it breaks down to glucose very quickly, spiking your insulin and blood sugar levels.

Is raw cacao good for you?

The term raw cacao suggests we are consuming cacao in its raw state, as it appears in nature. This, however, is not the case – the cacao we buy in shops is still processed. Even though the beans haven’t been roasted, they are fermented, pressed and ground down to make a powder.

During this manufacturing, friction naturally occurs, heating the beans up. The combination of heat and fermentation breaks down the tannins in the cacao beans making them more palatable. Completely raw, unheated beans are very bitter and would not taste pleasant.

One of the dangers of unroasted cacao is bacterial growth. When beans are roasted, the bacteria and pathogens which develop during the fermentation period are killed off.

The other risks associated with consuming raw cacao are:

• Overstimulation of the adrenal glands and kidneys due to its caffeine and theobromine content, both of which have a stimulatory effect. Long-term this can lead to addiction, insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, depression, mood swings, anxiety and abnormal heart rhythm.

• Poor digestion, constipation, bloating and wind as cacao clogs up your digestive system due to the toxins contained within the oil of the beans. The complex fat chains of the beans are also hard to break down and digest.

• Lowered immune system function due to the congestion cacao creates in the digestive system. It can also destroy your gut flora (the good bacteria).

• Liver and blood toxicity, along with a myriad of other health complications, can occur with long-term cacao consumption.

What to eat instead of chocolate

You don’t need to eat a chocolate bar to get your daily dose of antioxidants. There are plenty of other highly nutritious foods which contain antioxidants including:

• Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
• Goji berries
• Red and white cabbage
• Aubergine
• Black olives
• Citrus fruits
• Artichokes
• Kale and spinach
• Beetroot
• Green tea and matcha

Don’t believe the hype

Despite being proclaimed as a health food, any type of chocolate (including organic and dark chocolate) is not good for you. Due to excessive processing and chemical treatment, the cacao loses its nutritional value by the time it’s made into a chocolate bar. If you want to keep your health in check, steer clear of chocolate and opt for other antioxidant-rich foods such as kale and blueberries.

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