Chocolate has been thrown in the "junk food" category for most of the past century until new health benefits came to light recently about incredible nutrients and health benefits of cacao. It's time we take a closer look at what makes chocolate good for us and what we need to stay away from.
What is Chocolate?
Chocolate in its simplest form is a combination of 3 ingredients:
- Cocoa Mass
- Cocoa Butter
This traditional combination yields what we know as dark chocolate. Adding some milk powder creates milk chocolate while subtracting cocoa mass creates white chocolate. The less milk powder added to chocolate equates to a higher percentage of cocoa mass. This is what is being described when talking about a 55% vs 80% chocolate.
What Makes Chocolate Healthy?
Dark chocolate has long been the poster child for “healthy chocolate”. The reason is, the “healthy” part of chocolate is actually the seed from the pods of a cocoa tree. This seed is what is used to create cocoa mass or the dark compound we know that gives chocolate its bitter flavour. While adding milk and sugar has become a common practice to make the flavour more palatable for some, chocolate with higher cocoa contents are bursting with a host of minerals and health benefits including:
- Over half of the RDI for iron and magnesium
- 89-98% of the RDI for copper and manganese
- Plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium
- Healthy fats
- Antioxidants like polyphenols, flavanols and catechins (higher than any fruit tested)
- Heart health properties - reducing risk of heart related diseases and increasing blood flow while lowering blood pressure
It’s these nutrient dense cacao seeds (and chocolate products with a higher % of cocoa), that makes chocolate healthy.
What Makes Chocolate Unhealthy?
In order to increase the palatability of bitter dark chocolate, milk and sugar get added in different quantities which give a sweeter, creamier flavour. However, added sugar in our food system as a whole has become rampant in North America in the past century.
With the increased regulations of food labels and ingredients for “transparency” came a whole host of other names for sugar. This was the food industry’s attempt to hide how much sugar is really in a product. There are now a whopping 65 different names used by the industry to disguise added sugar to ingredients labels including Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose and Corn Syrup to name some of the most popular. They may be able to disguise the name of sugar, but by simply checking the grams of sugar per serving on the label, you can see how much sugar is really lurking inside.
Dairy is a polarized topic and without getting too deep, has been known to cause a ton of adverse health symptoms ranging from IBS, eczema, to full anaphylactic allergies. No other mammal drinks another animal's milk for sustenance, not to mention milk that is meant to turn a baby calf into a 1200 lb cow - so why do we? If you’re interested in going deeper on this topic, we highly recommend The Human Diet Dairy Delusion you can download free here.
Sugar is cheap and when you add more of a cheaper ingredient, you need less of the more expensive cocoa butter and cocoa mass to create the same product. You can see this on a lot of chocolate bar labels where they also add a lot of milk powder, milk solids or soy (even in “dark” chocolate). Beyond milk and sugar, it’s also common to see other ingredients like emulsifiers (ie: soy lecithin), preservatives (TBHQ), and other chemicals to extend shelf life or give a better “mouth feel”. A lot of companies also add palm oil to cut costs which is not only detrimental to our health, but responsible for widespread deforestation, devastation to orangutan populations and loss of natural forest cover.
Chocolate only needs 3 simple ingredients to make a healthy and delicious treat. But in the name of competition, companies are always trying to find shortcuts to reduce food costs while extending shelf lives which can come at the cost of our health.
We don’t believe treats have to be cheats. Chocolate is one of the original superfoods that the Aztecs used as currency! This is why at Dwarf Stars we created a high quality chocolate product using ethically sourced cocoa and wholesome ingredients. Our pumpkin seed butter cups are made with non-GMO, dry-roasted organic pumpkin seeds that add a delicious creaminess in lieu of dairy. We also offer sugar-free keto friendly options that contain zero sugar with maximum chocolate flavour.
All of our products are vegan and free from the top 10 priority food allergens (gluten and wheat free, dairy free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, sesame free, sulphite free, egg free, mustard free, crustacean free). We believe in creating a world where everyone can share chocolate. Check out our shop and find a delicious treat you can feel good about today!