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Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

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This is a guest post by Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe).
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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.

Comments have been closed on this article, which was written by Vani Hari. If you have a question or comment you can reach her at http://FoodBabe.com.
 

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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113 comments to Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

  • Michelle

    Hi FB. How about See’s candies? They are my favorite. I’m guessing their ingredients are not great either :/

  • Susan Greene

    High fructose corn syrup a couple of times a week will not kill you. This post is ridiculous – it’s a treat, you don’t have it daily, it’s okay to eat “bad” things every now and then.

    • Ashley

      Come back in 20 years and tell me how your health is. The GMO’s in HFCS are horrible too. I don’t eat perfect, but HFCS is one ingredient I’ve learned to avoid.

  • Afy

    Great info as always! Where do you get these products?

  • stephanie

    I think I could live on dark chocolate. ;) How do the Endangered Species chocolates compare?

  • Jenny

    My favorite is Seattle-based Theo Chocolate http://www.theochocolate.com/, which uses organic, fair-trade ingredients. They have an incredibly variety of flavors!

  • The study you reference above is in rats – they gained “significantly” more weight eating HFCS vs cane sugar. That’s statistically significant meaning that up up to 5% of the time this result would have been seen by chance (p<0.05). And we are talking 477 grams ve 502 grams with confidence intervals of 9 grams and 11 grams respectively. This is not evidence that HFCS is evil and will make you and your kids fat.

    • Ashley

      It’s not just about it making kids fat. Sugar in general is bad for you, spikes your blood sugar and has nothing nutritious in it at all. It’s an empty food! It’s hilarious that you’re even defending sugar.

      • Susan Greene

        That’s why you have a pancreas – so your body can stabilize your blood sugar. In my practice it dries me crazy how many parents come to me thinking sugar should be avoided at all costs. It’s crazy.

  • Thanks for listing some better options. I like coming away from posts like these with an idea of something that we could eat.

  • How about DeBrand chocolates?

  • molly

    This retailer has super pure chocolate:

    http://middleburychocolates.com/

    no gluten, no soy, artificial dyes, hormones, no refining… Their ingredients are simply cocoa, palm sugar, and sea salt, and their ingredients are organic. It is amasaing chocolate and very dark (65-75%). They are a smaller company, though, so their prices might be a little higher than what you expect. For the record, it is totally worth it.

  • Namrata

    Good job on this one!
    I recently started reading labels on my favorite chocolates (Lindt) and was shocked to see the number of junky additives in it. I’ve started buying chocolates now from Trader Joe’s (organic or otherwise). They have a great selection and no junk. On one of them, I was pleasantly surprised to note that they used turmeric and beet juice for color. Love Trader Joe’s!