Come Over to the Dark Side of Chocolate

It doesn’t get any better than this: Chocolate is good for the heart!

Before you rush off for your stash of candy bars please read on for – you knew it was coming – the caveats of cacao.

When it comes to health and chocolate, it’s all about the cacao beans. Your beloved chocolate gets its start from these “magic” beans. They are packed with the same powerhouse antioxidants that are also found in red wine, apples, onions and grapes.

These super substances, which are also called flavonoids, are thought to protect against heart attack, stroke, dementia, hypertension, diabetes and other circulatory diseases.

Warning: Before you launch an all-chocolate diet, please note there’s a downside to this amazing story.


Reality Check

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Yummy milk chocolate doesn’t deliver the goods. The only truly healthy chocolate is dark chocolate. It’s DARK chocolate that contains the flavonoids that help your body fight off serious illness.

Sure, milk chocolate tastes better. But because of its high sugar content, melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate will do you more harm than good. Milk chocolate can be 80-90% refined white sugar…the sweet stuff that packs on the pounds and leads to chronic disease.

Another few words of caution. Not all brands of dark chocolate are created equal. And even when you do find a healthy variety, don’t overdo it! A little dark chocolate goes a long way.

Don’t fret. We’re here to help you uncover the dark side of chocolate.


BrandAid Dark Chocolate Guidelines

Savor our BrandAid Dark Chocolate Guidelines and you’ll be far less likely to fall for the Healthy Food Imposters.

Before buying, look for these important distinctions:

  • The cocoa percentage MUST BE listed on the front label. If there’s no percentage listed, put it back and move on.
  • Look for varieties that have at least 60% cocoa, but don’t set your aim too high. The greater the percentage of cocoa the more bitter the chocolate.
  • Chocolate liquor, cocoa or chocolate should be the first ingredient. If it’s sugar, move on. Note: You might get a chocolate buzz but you won’t get an alcoholic buzz from chocolate liquor.
  • Seek out varieties that use unprocessed sweeteners such as evaporated cane juice, barley malt, or plain old sugar.
  • USDAoorganicFoodSeal“Certified organic” chocolate brands are a plus. The rating ensures there are no harmful pesticide residues. Plus, these brands tend to use higher quality ingredients!

BestBrand Example

Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate Extra Fine 70% Cocoa

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Ingredients: Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Vanilla (a Natural Flavor).

OK, now that you know what to shop for, you also need to learn what junk ingredients to avoid. They include:

  • Chemical sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup.
  • Unhealthy fats like palm oil, partially hydrogenated oil, or milk fat which can raise blood cholesterol.
  • Alkali or Dutch-processed cocoa on ingredients label. These terms are code for overly processed cacao beans that are prepared using a process known as Dutching, which strips out the antioxidants.

Healthy Food Imposter Example

Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar

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Ingredients: Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Milk Fat, Soya Lecithin (an Emulsifier) and Vanillin (an Artificial Flavoring).

Wondering why this qualifies as a Healthy Food Imposter? We’ve got three good reasons. First, there is no cocoa percentage listed on the front label. Second, sugar is listed as the first ingredient. Third, the cocoa is processed with alkali. Because it’s heavy on the refined sugars and overly processed cacao beans, this product is more of a heart stopper than a heart helper.


BestBrands

Chocolatour Chocolate Bar Dark Tanzania 76% Cocoa
Chocolove Chocolate Bar Dark 73% Cocoa Content Organic
Chocolove Chocolate Bar Strong Dark 70% Cocoa Content
Green & Black’s Chocolate Bar Dark 70% Cocoa Content Organic
Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate Extra Fine 70% Cocoa
Ghirardelli Twilight Delight 72%

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By the way, finding BestBrands of dark chocolate in your favorite grocery stores is a hit or miss proposition. They are more readily available in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Marketplace and Target. Or you can let your fingers do the shopping online.

Because of this, we are rolling out our SilverMedal picks – dark chocolate choices you can buy in most any grocery store. These are good choices, but they’re not the best because of certain ingredients. For instance, some scientists believe that the benefits of dark chocolate are reduced when milk is part of the mix; the brands below each contain some milk.

SilverMedal

Cacao Reserve by Hershey’s Santo Domingo 67%
Cacao Reserve by Hershey’s Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs 65%
Cacao Reserve by Hershey’s Premium Dark Chocolate 65%
Dove Extra Dark Chocolate 63% Cacao
Ghirardelli Espresso Escape 60% Cacao

Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.

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In Our Opinion: The information contained in the eBrandAid e-newsletters is strictly based on the opinions of the eBrand Doctors. We have created a set of guidelines that we believe will help shoppers to better understand and decode food labels on products found in most grocery stores. Our mission is to help shoppers find the healthier brands that have the least amount of chemicals and other junk ingredients.

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