Woah, I didn't know that! In summary, Cacao (cold press) is better than Cocoa (heated) but the processing time takes longer. As well as child labour is huge too so worth helping out the cause :)
Love Chocolate? Are You Eating Super Food Or Super Junk?
But while it’s true that dark chocolate, or more specifically, cacao, can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, is the chocolate you’re eating really doing as much good for you as you think it is?
Most conventional brands of chocolate are based on cocoa solids rather than cacao. Even though both come from the same plant (beans of the cacao tree), there’s a big difference between these two, and it isn’t just the spelling.
Raw cacao products are made by cold-pressing (below 47 degrees Celsius) the unroasted beans to separate the fat (cacao butter). This goes on to become the nibs or powder.
The antioxidant potency of raw cacao acts to reduce free radicals in a pretty extraordinary way, and contains more per 100g than blueberries. Cacao contains properties that reportedly protect your nervous system, reduce your blood pressure, and even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
It’s a great source of minerals too, including magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and manganese, all of which are essential to achieving optimal health. In contrast, cocoa products have been roasted at high temperatures before pressing. The process of using high heat significantly reduces the nutritional compounds in the beans that we know are so beneficial to our health. So, for this reason it would be fair to consider cocoa a more processed food, and raw cacao products are always going to be the superior option.
Sadly, many conventional chocolate brands, including dark chocolate, are not only made from cocoa but they also contain low quality fillers such as refined white sugar, preservatives, and (not-so) natural flavours.
Another issue, which is fairly common in conventional chocolates, is that sugar is the first ingredient in the list, indicating to us that there is actually more sugar in the product than there is cocoa. Not such sweet facts, huh?
So look for chocolate that contains natural ingredients, starting with cacao solids, not sugar and not a lot else added to it. Chocolate that has been minimally processed will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.
Another option is raw chocolate. Raw chocolate is a natural food and is without a doubt the most nutrient-dense option you can find – made from cacao butter and powder, it contains no dairy and is naturally sweetened with small amounts of natural sweeteners including agave and coconut nectar.
What about the farmers and the environment?Cacao beans are generally grown in low-income developing countries such as West Africa, where access to basic needs like fresh drinking water are often an issue.
Unfortunately, there are major chocolate brands out there that are guilty of sourcing cacao harvested by children and slave labour because they can get it at a cheaper price. It should be noted that organic and fair trade products pay farmers a fair price for their crops, thereby creating opportunities for farmers who are economically disadvantaged by conventional trading.
Greater awareness and support for organics and fair trade can contribute to an economy that lifts farmers out of extreme poverty, and reduces the exploitation of workers and child slavery.
Cacao is actually one of the most heavily sprayed food crops. Many cacao plantations use large amounts of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. These chemicals are bad for people’s health and the planet. You can read more about that here.
Many of these chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, as well as a long list of other serious health issues. When a person is repeatedly exposed to these chemicals, like the farmers are, the risk of developing these serious diseases increases significantly.
Organic plantations where no chemical sprays are used are better for the overall health of the farmers, the environment and the product.
So go ahead and enjoy a few squares of organic, fairly traded chocolate, or a spoonful of cacao powder in your morning smoothie. Not only will it be good for you, it will be good for the farmers and the planet too!