Ooey, gooey, fudgey, chips, bars, chunks, cookies, cakes…chocolate.
Mmm…if that caught your attention, and you have an intense affair with chocolate (like us) we’ve got something in store for you. When we say affair, we mean- you LOVE it, you WANT it, but you think that you shouldn’t have it because the way you have it is bad, oh so very bad for you. You have a bar; it turns into two or you have a slice of cake and it turns into the whole thing. You’re not a lays potato chip lover; you are a sweet sweet devotee to the good stuff. Your sweet tooth begs for it, day in and day out. That’s the eternal affair with chocolate, we’ve been there too and we have got some fantastic news!
Chocolate isn’t bad at all!
In fact, it can be one of the healthiest things on the planet but what’s important is knowing what to purchase and what to avoid when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship with it. And we’re here to make sure that this one lasts for life. We promise, you’re never ever attempting to break-up with chocolate again!
Cacao solids, or raw cacao (the purest form of chocolate) is one of the world’s healthiest and well-rounded foods. High in minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats your chocolate habit can be so good for you! But, what makes it bad is when a company decides to take the cacao, heavily refine it, add dairy, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, fillers, preservatives and other ingredients to extend shelf life, a smooth creamy texture and an incredible sweetness that even anti-sugar activist can’t resist. It’s then and there that this delicious and healthy relationship turns into a disastrous affair for your health.
From cacao to cocoa, what you need to know.
We know that fruit can be one of the richest sources of antioxidants known to man, which explains why the cacao tree produce a fruit that is one of the world’s most potent in terms of antioxidant content. The Mayan word for cacao ‘kakawa’ translates to ‘fruit of the gods’ in Greek – so you can see how vital of a food cacao has historically been.
A little breakdown of how cacao is harvested and processed goes like this:
The cacao tree Theobroma Cacao is a tree that is native to Central/ South America and parts of Africa. It produces pods (the fruit of the tree) that can be cracked open to expose cacao beans (the seed), which are surrounded in a white pulp. The cacao beans are extracted, deshelled and pressed to extract the cacao butter (fattiest and richest part). The pressed beans are left to dry, ferment and from there they can be further broken down into cacao solids which are processed into cacao paste, cacao liquor or cacao powder. The bigger the piece of the bean (i.e. cacao nibs), the less production necessary and the more nutrients retained. That’s why you see the trendy little nib popping up in cafes, juice and smoothie bars and getting a claim to fame.
Now cocoa powder (not cacao) is produced in a similar way to cacao powder. The biggest difference is that it’s cooked at a higher heat and more of the cacao butter is removed, therefore its nutritional value is diminished and it becomes cheaper.
Although cocoa powder isn’t as nutrient dense as cacao powder there is no dispute that it still has a decent amount of nutrients and fiber. Keep in mind that we’re talking about plain cocoa – no added sugar, milk products, preservatives – in order to be nutritious.
Fun fact: In Canada, the term ‘cacao’ and ‘cocoa’ can be used interchangeably on the label but not in the ingredient list. When you look at the ingredients of anything containing chocolate ‘cocoa’ or ‘cocoa powder’ must be used. If you are looking for CACAO, check the front of the label where it is mandatory to give a % statement of the amount of ‘cacao’ the bar contains.
Hop on the cacao bandwagon for some serious health benefits.
Ancient Civilizations had it right when they traded cacao for currency, because the antioxidant health benefits of this amazing fruit are astonishing. In the raw, cacao contains antioxidant power that can outweigh blueberries by 20x! Not only do they kick some free-radicals butt, but they are incredibly high in minerals such as Magnesium and Sulphur.
Phenolic Phytochemicals is basically an umbrella term for a large group of chemicals found in foods. They give food their colour, odor and flavor (why raw cacao is so bitter, and why blueberries are so… blue). But research has begun to point towards large consumption of foods that contain phytochemicals to be great for your health. These chemicals help protect your body from oxidative stress by supplying your bloodstream with antioxidants. These antioxidants help stabilize free-radical molecules (that can cause damage), ultimately keeping everything nice and balanced.
Combat chocolate cravings with chocolate.
You know what we are talking about when we say chocolate cravings. It could be that time of the month when your hormones are out of whack or in the evening when you hit the couch. When that chocolate craving kicks in you could seriously consider bathing in a tub of it. You know that feeling, right? Well, guess what chances are it’s because your body is telling you that you need the important mineral, Magnesium. Check it out, an adult female should consume around 310 mg/ day of Magnesium and an adult man around 400mg/ day. Guess what chocolate is high in? That’s right, Magnesium. In 100mg of dark chocolate there is nearly 200 mg of Magnesium. So, the best way to kill that chocolate craving, you guessed it…. chocolate. Isn’t that awesome? The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher quantity of Magnesium. Even if you don’t have a chocolate craving, Magnesium keeps your bones nice and strong (nearly 50% of your body’s Magnesium is located in your skeleton, but it’s also involved in energy production, muscle and nerve function and your immune system.
What else is cacao good for?
- Essential fatty acids such as oleic acid can help improve your memory and reduce inflammation, making it amazing for your circulatory system.
- High in feel good endorphins and has been proven to increase your serotonin levels causing a pleasurable feeling in the brain, which can help you relax and reduce stress levels.
- Cacao contains Sulphur, which has a reputation as the ‘beauty nutrient’ due to its amazing benefits for your hair, skin, and nails. Not only that, but Sulphur has antioxidant properties keeping the liver functioning smoothly.
- High in prebiotic fiber, making it amazing for your digestive system, keeping things regular and allowing your healthy bacteria flourish, ultimately aiding in the detoxification process.
Mass produced chocolate: What it’s not good for…
Think quick, what’s your favourite chocolate bar? Putting health aside for one minute and going back in time a little, we would have to say, hands down, Cadbury Dairy Milk… rich, creamy, deliciousness. We’re not going to lie, we still dream about Mini Eggs around Easter, but we also know the reason why it tastes so addictive – just check out this ingredient list:
Milk, sugar, wheat flour, cocoa butter, vegetable fats (palm, shea), cocoa mass, butter, dried skimmed milk, emulsifiers (E442, E476,soya lecithin), dried whole milk, glucose syrup, dried whey (from milk), salt, milk fat, raising agents (E450, sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate), flavourings, barley malt extract, wheat starch, flour treatment agent (sodium metabisulphite (contains sulphites), yeast extract.
MILK CHOCOLATE: MILK SOLIDS 20% MINIMUM, ACTUAL 23%. COCOA SOLIDS 20% MINIMUM. CONTAINS VEGETABLE FATS IN ADDITION TO COCOA BUTTER.
Dairy and sugar (lots as they are the first 2 ingredients) are obviously a delicious combo, but not the first ingredients you’d expect to see in a high quality nutritious chocolate. Highly processed vegetable fats are also not something we like to see in a bar as they can cause free radical damage, and contribute to heart disease and inflammation. And the other stuff that we usually can’t decipher like ‘raising agents’ and ‘flavourings’ – man-made preservatives and chemicals that have no business being in food as they too can damage your health. Last time we checked E450 wasn’t a food, so there’s that.
And what about sustainability?
Not only is your classic Dairy Milk or Kit Kat filled with nasty ingredients, but there is also the issue of sustainability. Bottom line is cacao farming and production is an incredibly lengthy, time-consuming process. The time it takes to get the bean to the mouth is substantial, and it’s in high demand (obviously, it’s chocolate). With the change in climate, overpopulation, deforestation, unsustainable farming practices and government involvement you can see where there may be issues within the chocolate industry. Cacao in these third world countries has become a mono crop, which causes the plant and soil it’s grown in to lose its integrity. It can result in a plant struggling to grow. So, we have a plant that isn’t creating the yield it once was, shortage of land, and a farmer who is struggling to survive… therein lies the problem.
Organic, fair trade chocolate: What it’s good for…
Props to those who have worked their butts off to raise awareness to the issue of mass produced chocolate, because groups such as The World Cocoa Foundation can promote sustainability by providing support to cacao farmers, which help them grow more quality cacao and in turn strengthen the local economy and community surrounding them.
Making the choco switch is going to be one of the most rewarding health swaps that you will ever have to do, we promise you. For us, there was no turning back. We’re not going to tell you we don’t ever eat anything else (we’re about enjoying life so we won’t turn away grandma’s cake because it’s not 70% cacao), but making the switch changes your taste buds and you learn to appreciate the taste of real chocolate, just like fine wine. You will also feel healthier for eating fair trade, dark chocolate knowing it’s better for you and the planet. The literal icing on the cake- when you eat dark chocolate there is usually less sugar and it’s a lot richer, so you don’t feel the need to eat an entire bar. You can autopilot this healthy swap. Seriously.]
Where and what to look for?
Most health food stores carry dark, organic, fair trade chocolate, as well as, the health food section of your local supermarket. Look for the fair-trade Canada logo and the Organic logo on your chocolate.
We prefer chocolate that is at least 70%+ dark for the most health benefit, but you can make a gradual switch by going 5% higher at a time. The Cadbury bar above is only about 20% cocoa…!
Also, try to stay away from dairy or milk chocolate and refined sugar (all you have to do is check the handy ingredients list on the back). If the bar contains cacao, you are yielding more health benefits of cocoa, but remember that cocoa still contains a nutrition power punch.
Okay, dairy milk chocolate ditched and crushing hard on dark chocolate. Sit down, relax and enjoy a couple pieces without feeling any guilt or the need to binge. Just remember the rule of thumb – the higher the % of cacao, the better it is for you!
And Canada’s best of the best… we’ve got a serious crush on Zazubean!
Whether you are sassy, flirty, sultry, cheeky or nakid, Zazubean has a chocolate bar for you. Since you love to support local, they are a Canadian based company from B.C. who started because they believed chocolate was amazing, but knew that there could be better and healthier options. They went out to create an ethical chocolate and became Canada’s first line of superfood gourmet chocolate. And do they ever do their chocolate well.
Not only do we love their company standards but they have the best ethical chocolate we have ever tasted, and so many different fun and sexy options to choose from, check it out:
Sassy: Pomegranate and hazelnut
Saltry: Sea salt and almonds
Nudie: Extra dark chocolate with coconut sugar
Kiki: Fig and sea salt with coconut sugar
Cheeky: Salted toffee and banana with maca
Squeeze: Orange and ginger with yerba mate
Nutbar: Coconut and almond with camu camu
Lunatic: Mint and cocoa nibs with maca
Hottie: Chili and cinnamon with yerba mate
Flirt: Raspberry and cherry with acai
Nakid: Cocoa nibs and vanilla
Smooch: Vanilla and caramel crunch