A collaboration post between Healthfully Hannah and GurlGoneGreen
Have you ever walked down the chocolate aisle at a grocery store? It can be downright overwhelming if you’re a chocolate lover! Do you want dark, milk, or white chocolate? Do you want a candy bar, chocolate covered nuts, mint, or raspberry with it? Sound familiar? Contrary to popular belief, not all chocolate is created equal. Chocolate lovers can still rejoice though, because we’ve given you a few simple guidelines to ensure you’re buying the best of the best!
It’s true – chocolate can provide multiple health benefits, when it is high quality. But before indulging, here are a few things to consider about chocolate (some may surprise you!)
- Cacao vs. Cocoa – There’s a Difference
Maybe you’ve seen both and assumed they were the same, but there are several important differences between cacao and cocoa.
All chocolate actually starts as cacao, from the cacao bean (which are technically seeds). When you see “cacao”, that means it has been processed at low temperatures and usually has fewer additives.
You can get all the benefits from cacao by consuming raw cacao powder, cacao nibs, or chocolate bars with a high % cacao. In fact, raw, unprocessed, cacao has even been associated with improving a variety of health conditions.
*See below why cacao is important to buy organic.
Cocoa on the other hand is processed at extremely high temperatures, which destroys some of the beneficial nutrients. This is what we find in mainstream chocolate products like hot cocoa, cocoa powder, candy bars, chocolate desserts, and other chocolate products. If consuming cocoa, be sure it does not contain additives like milk, high fructose corn syrup, soy, oils, artificial flavors, and dyes (as it often does!)
- Chocolate Should Always Be Dairy-Free
Cacao naturally contains polyphenols (a compound that has antioxidant properties) but when it contains dairy, we’re not able to absorb the health benefits of the chocolate. Milk protein inhibits absorption of these beneficial polyphenols.
This is why dark chocolate is a much healthier option. The higher the percentage of cacao, the better (at least 70%).
- White Chocolate Isn’t the Same
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. It doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, which is where the health benefits come from. The polyphenols and flavanols, found in cocoa solids, function as antioxidants to fight free radicals. Unfortunately, white chocolate usually contains more sugar and little fiber, making it inferior on many levels.
If you do choose white chocolate make sure you read the label. Always look for low sugar, organic milk ingredients, and a high cocoa butter content. Companies often use a lot of unhealthy fats (linked to inflammation) and a very small amount of cocoa butter – which eliminates the health benefits found in dark chocolate.
- Fair Trade Is Extremely Important
Did you know that the majority of American Chocolate companies (think Mars, Hershey, Nestle) use child labor to grow their cocoa? Most of these farms are in Africa in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The children have little clothes on their backs, their faces scarred from the machete they use to cut down the cocoa and even worse they are being exposed to hazardous chemicals through the pesticides they spray on the crops.
“The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.” (Source)
*Due to these factors, Hannah and I carefully choose companies that do not participate in these inhumane practices.
What can we do? First, stop supporting these companies with your purchases. As we like to say often, vote with your dollars. Then, purchase chocolate products from companies that offer Fair Trade. It is expensive for companies to receive the fair trade labels and some simply cannot afford it. Others terms to look for are “Bean to Bar”, and “Direct Trade.”
Here are the fair trade symbols to look for on your chocolate:
Keep in mind that the higher the percentage of cacao, the better. We like to stick with 70% cacao or higher.
- Next time you’re picking out chocolate, make sure it is:
- Dairy free (If you’re consuming a little chocolate every day it’s best to avoid dairy to make sure you are able to absorb the antioxidants it offers but of course there are times when you really want a little dairy in your chocolate which is fine-got to a live a little!)
- Fair Trade
- Free from additives like GMOs, soy, added sugars, artificial colorings, and more organic if possible (Did you know cacao is often heavily treated with pesticides?)
Brands We Love & Our Favorites From Them-
- Fair Trade
- Dairy Free, Gluten Free, and Soy Free
Our favorites: It’s hard to choose a favorite, but you can’t go wrong with Wei Beautiful, the perfect mix of chocolate and peppermint. We’re also huge fans of their Wei Inspired, a mix of himalayan sea salt and dark chocolate. Use code: LOVELY, good till 2/28/17 for15% off one-time purchases, and 20% off on-going subscriptions.
- Refined Sugar Free
- Soy Free & Gluten Free
Our favorites: Huge fans of the Crunchy Caramel Bar and the Almond Sea Salt. As well as the Caramel Sea Salt Cups and Mint Cream Cups. Oh and if you’re really into chocolate spreads then check out their Toasted Coconut Chocolate Spread-it might change your life!
- Gluten Free & Soy-Free
- Fair Trade
Our favorites: A staple is the Salted Almond 70% Dark, the Mint 70% Dark and we can’t forget about the Coconut 70% Dark too. We also really love their Baking Bars for baked goods. We like breaking them into chocolate chunks to use in cookies. They aren’t dairy-free but they are one of the few baking bars that is soy free and organic. Plus, this is something for a special holiday than to use every week.
- Soy Free
- Mostly all Fair Trade Certified
Our favorites: Their chocolate does have dairy in it but we’re ok with that once in awhile as we mentioned earlier. Sometimes chocolate needs to just be an indulgent treat! That being said their truffles are amazing-a serious treat. We also love their Dark Brown Butter Bar-it may also change your life!
- Free from top allergens (milk, soy, wheat, eggs)
Our favorites: Love the mini chips for baking, especially cookies!
- Only 3 ingredients in each chocolate pattie
- Dairy Free
Our favorites: The Mint Chocolate Patties and the Almond Chocolate Patties are both amazing!
- Up to 88% Cacao
- Soy-Free & Vegan
- Fair Trade & Worker Owned
Our favorites: We love their 55% and 70% dark chocolate chips for special treats and baking.
Giveaway! We’ve teamed up to giveaway a box of Wei of Chocolate on Instagram, so stay tuned to enter to win.
What are your favorite chocolate brands? Did you learn something new about cacao or cocoa? Share below!
Hannah is the founder and educator of Healthfully Hannah, a blog empowering others to live healthfully through Clean Eating, Natural Beauty, and Nontoxic Living. She discovered the power of real food and natural living through her own health journey and is passionate about sharing it with others. In addition to her research and blogging, Hannah is pursuing her Masters Degree in Functional Medicine and Nutrition, and plans to use this knowledge to identify and address health concerns naturally through a whole-body approach.
You can find all the latest on Hannah through her blog: Healthfullyhannah.com