Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

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Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) is a regular contributor on 100 Days of Real Food. To learn more about Vani check her out on “Our Team” page.
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15 dollars for 8 pieces of chocolate….?! That’s all I could think about on a recent trip to the mall while walking past the famous chocolatier, Godiva. I mean 15 dollars for 8 pieces of what? What is Godiva doing that make these chocolates so much more expensive than other brands of chocolate? Is it handcrafted? No. Is it made with organic milk and cream? No. What about real pure cane sugar? No. It must have real vanilla? No! (They actually use artificial vanilla made from a wood by-product!) And they obviously do not package their chocolate in a box made of real gold. So what is it?

It is marketing, marketing, marketing and trickery at its best!

Godiva chocolate has been tricking many of us for years into believing that paying a premium for chocolate means you are getting higher quality treats, but this can’t be further from the truth! Take a look at the ingredients in one of their chocolates and you’ll quickly realize what they’re selling are fancy-looking cheap ingredients wrapped up in a pretty gold box. How are they getting away with this? And what about all the other popular chocolate brands, are they selling us junk ingredients too?

Let’s be real here – eating chocolate on occasion is absolutely an okay treat – but there’s a lot of consideration that needs to be made when choosing how to get your fix. Unfortunately, our food system’s top priority is the bottom line so we need to pay attention to the ingredient label on every single product we buy. Chocolate can provide a daily dose of much needed antioxidants or it can be a chemistry experiment full of man-made artificial ingredients. I do not like supporting brands that try to trick me into buying questionable ingredients. Voting with your dollars is one of the only ways to voice disgust for the unhealthy chemicals in food, and it can also directly influence change by hitting the bottom line of the food companies that continue to sells us cheap, harmful, and potentially dangerous ingredients.

Just look at the ingredients in popular chocolate candy out there; they are despicable and it’s why I don’t buy these brands any longer, even for an occasional “treat”:

Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, Russell Stover, Godiva, Nestle and M&M/Mars all use unhealthy and harmful ingredients like:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - Princeton University found that HFCs commonly found in candy prompts considerably more weight gain than conventional sugars and is linked to obesity. The latest statistics are startling and show that 42% of us will be obese by 2030 and obesity will be the leading preventable cause of death in America by 2019. We must do everything we can to stop this slippery slope by not consuming chemically refined sugars that make us eat more than we should.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) - We don’t know for sure how much of these candy brand products are genetically modified since they are currently not required to be labeled in this U.S.A. (Hopefully that will change soon if Prop 37 passes in California!) But we do know that the consumption of GMO foods poses a serious threat to our health and has been linked to toxicity, cancer, allergic reactions and fertility issues. It’s really hard to find a chocolate these days without the ingredient “soy lecithin,” which helps keep chocolate smooth and together. Unfortunately soy is one of the most common crops to be genetically modified. And even the sugar that chocolate contains can be from genetically modified sugar beets! When buying any chocolate (or anything in general), remember to read the label just to make sure all ingredients are listed organic or Non-GMO Project verified to avoid GMO’s.
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  • Growth Hormone – Chocolate usually contains dairy, which means that unless it’s organic chocolate, you are likely consuming milk from cows that have been conventionally raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. rBGH is a GMO found in cheap conventional dairy products that many of these chocolate brands use to make their milk chocolate. That means that by simply eating a piece of chocolate you or your family could be ingesting a substance that in excess levels has been reported to cause breast, colon and prostate cancers.
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  • Partially Hydrogenated Oils (a.k.a. Trans Fat) – The 4th ingredient in Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Mint is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This is alarming because trans fat has been shown to be deadly even in small amounts. “Previous trials have linked even a 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake to a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” 40 calories is a mere 2% of a typical 2000 calorie per day diet – and could easily be the amount of trans fat found in many types of chocolate.
  • Artificial Colors – We’ve discussed artificial food coloring a lot before, but I think it needs a little more air time, considering we are talking about chocolate – a substance that is usually white, brown, or dark brown and doesn’t actually need coloring! I was floored to find coloring in Godiva’s 8 piece gold box and Russell Stover’s pecan clusters. When companies manufacture chocolates using chemical fillers and fake ingredients that don’t have natural colors, they have to add color to trick our senses into making us think we are eating something real. The most widely used dyes are contaminated with known carcinogens, linked to cancer and known to cause hyperactivity in children. Also, watch out for “caramel coloring” that may sound natural but is not. It’s often manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds that are also linked to cancer.
  • Artificial Flavors – Thousands of secret food chemicals can be hidden under the label “artificial flavors.” Some of these chemicals are actually never reviewed by the FDA because they are used in such a small amount. Food company scientists develop ways to use chemically derived ingredients that turn on and off certain taste buds depending upon the end goal – changing something from bitter to sweet, and so on. Allowing artificial flavors in your diet gives these scientists the ability to mess with your senses and trick you to like, eat, and buy more fake food than you would otherwise.

Luckily for us not all chocolate is designed to trick you or have scary ingredients. There are many choices available that are delicious and actually nutritious!

  1. Alter Eco Organic Chocolate – This is my absolute favorite organic chocolate right now. I like to choose organic chocolate whenever possible, to lessen my exposure to pesticides. The cocoa bean, from which chocolate is produced, is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. The Dark Quinoa Chocolate bar tastes just like a “Nestle Crunch,” and the Dark Coconut Toffee bar totally satisfies your “Butterfinger” craving.  I have a hard time keeping these bars in the house…my husband and I seem to always fight over the last piece.
    Alter Eco is currently giving away an assortment of their organic chocolate bars to 10 readers on FoodBabe.comEnter by Nov. 5th for a chance to win.
  2. UnReal Candy – Although Unreal isn’t certified organic, they make a point to choose sustainably sourced chocolate and use no GMOs, growth hormone or antibiotics in their milk chocolate. They’ve perfectly reinvented classic candy favorites likes M&Ms, Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups without all the junk. Now only if they could do this for all the other candies out there like candy corn! They make perfectly sized mini-treats you can find at most drug stores and some Targets, which is why they made my Non-GMO candy list .
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  3. Kopali Chocolate Covered Organic Superfoods - Their organic chocolate covered goji berries are addictive and a tasty alternative to “Raisinets.” I love goji berries because they are less sweet and more chewy than raisins and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any food. Antioxidants are very important because they fight all the free radicals and toxins you can accumulate in your body that cause aging and disease.
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  4. Righteously Raw - This may be one of the most health conscious organic chocolates available on the market that actually tastes good! This chocolate is completely raw and made with several types of superfoods. You are getting 100% of the benefits from eating chocolate when it is in its raw state. Righteously Raw just came out with bite size flavors that I feel great about eating everyday with no guilt because there is no refined sugar! The mint is my favorite and reminiscent of “Andes Creme De Menthe” chocolates that are full of artificial food coloring and trans fat.
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  5. NibMor Organic Chocolate - I met the founders of this whimsical chocolate company recently at a fundraiser for Prop 37 in NYC. I had honestly never heard of them or tried their chocolate before. Luckily I got a few samples to take home…and let me just tell you, they did not make it home! I ate them all on the airplane and I’ve been buying little boxes of their perfectly sized squares called “daily dose” ever since! The addition of cacao nibs to their chocolates adds a nice crunch and ups the percentage of real cacao you are getting per bite.

 

Vani HariVani Hari a.k.a. Food Babe is an organic living expert, food activist and writer on FoodBabe.com. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth. To follow Vani, check her out on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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109 comments to Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

  • Mallory

    I think it’s worth noting that a lot of the Unreal candy bars still have a lot of ingredients that I don’t consider “real food.” Milk powder and soy lecithin are still processed. :( I know these are better than the alternatives, but I don’t want anyone misled into believing these ingredients are Real Food.

  • Totally Agree Mallory… but felt it was necessary to mention there are alternatives to other junk chocolate that includes harmful ingredients as discussed in the post. Not sure if milk powder or soy is going to hurt anyone – unless it has 1. growth hormone & antibiotics 2. GMOs – UnReal guarantees their chocolate is free of both.

  • Esther

    It seems like most of the orgnic chocolate bars are dark chocolate. I am NOT a dark chocolate lover. I would rather eat something else than choose dark chocolate. Are there options that are milk chocolate or is every milk chocolate option a bad option?

  • Thanks so much for posting this! It’s been a recent topic of discussion in our home, especially with Halloween upon us. I know this isn’t the topic of your blog, but another thing to consider when choosing chocolate is whether or not it’s fair-trade. The chocolate industry is one of the most exploitative in the world, right up there with coffee and sugar, and usually uses child labor so they don’t have to pay them as much (while the children’s parents go jobless). Anyway, just a thought!

  • A dude

    I think food babe is an extremist. I follow your site closely and it has positively changed the way my family and I eat and look at food, but this is the real world. There are toxic chemicals in the water we drink. I am a firm believer that many diseases today are preventable by making smarter choices but to what extent? Living life in fear of anything, including food, is just as unhealthy.

    I don’t think she portrays the kind of image your site should want to be associated with. Her mission is a great one, but her execution sucks and I think it makes all of us who try to make smart choices and educate others look like crazies.

    • Sorry you feel that way – I don’t want anyone to live in fear – I want everyone to know the truth so they can make better choices, vote with their dollar and hold food companies responsible for what they are doing to us collectively as a society. The more people know, the more change will come.

    • Anonymous

      A Dude- you’re right, we can’t avoid the toxins that are leaching their way into every part of our lives, but we sure can try to not eat or support GMOs! There’s nothing extreme about seeking out real food. I, for one, like to vote with my money. Just sayin’.

    • Kitt

      Food Babe isn’t extreme. The garbage they’ve put in our food is what’s extreme. We’re conditioned to think it’s normal, but it isn’t. People keep saying things like, “Oh, people didn’t have food allergies like now when I was a kid!” They’re right – because something’s changed. Our food supply. As a sufferer of serious food allergies, I’m just plain pissed that I was raised on this kind of chemical crap. I’m healthier after cutting it all out, but am still struggling with issues I have no clue if I can ever fix. Maybe your issues will kick in later in life and you’ll just attribute them to age, but there IS a price for eating this crap. THAT’s the “real world.”

  • Susan

    What about Think Chocolate over in the Ballantyne area? They say “all handmade with no hydrogenated oils”…just curious if you have looked into their products.

    Thanks!

  • Jacqueline

    Thanks for this information, FB! Looking forward to trying some of the UnReal products, perhaps on sale after Halloween! Also, I am curious what your thoughts are on Trader Joe’s Organic chocolate bars. I enjoy the 73% dark ones very much with a little homemade nut butter! Thanks for all you do … we need more people out there like you :)

  • I’d love to try some of Alter Eco’s chocolate – but at $25.99 for three candy bars?

    Eeek! I think I’ll pass, and just happily munch unhealthy chocolate on occasion.

    I love to eat healthier foods, but for my family, there has to be a good balance between healthy options and price, and this seems way over the top for a candy bar, in my opinion.

    Thank you for letting us know about some of the healthier options, though! :)

  • Laura

    Awesome advice! Thanks! I have a question though (and I’m sure I could google it) BUT what kind of sugar do I need to buy? Is it okay to buy Pure Cane Sugar at the store or does it have to be organic to avoid the GMO’s? Does the sugar they sell in the the store contain the sugar beets that are genetically modified? We don’t use a lot of sugar to begin with, maybe just a small amount in my coffee in the morning but it adds up! Thanks to the both of you for your blogs and advice. Sure has changed our families eating habits!

    • I prefer organic coconut palm sugar – it’s the least processed of the bunch and retains more mineral and vitamin content than pure cane sugar. It also does not spike your blood sugar like other sugars do. Pure cane sugar cannot be GMO (because it comes from sugar cane) – but if it’s labeled as just “sugar” it can be made from GMO sugar beets. And anything labeled “organic” is not GMO. Good Luck!

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