Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

Pin It

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.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 .
  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.
  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.
  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 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.

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

108 comments to Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

  • Kristi

    Anyone looking for high quality, no phony baloney chocolate, try ordering some Fran’s Chocolates from Seattle-the salted caramels are drool-worthy!

  • Gigi

    I love the Trader Joe’s Organic 73% Cacao Super Dark chocolate… though it is not for the faint of heart! It is an intense dark chocolate, but I love that it doesn’t have any soy lecithin or other weird things I can’t pronounce in it. It’s a good pick for any chocolate lover!

  • Thank you for this excellent and informative post. I love all the chocolate recommendations. Can’t wait to try them out :)

  • Christina

    I am so excited that I found your blog. I am always looking for clear information on the products they contaminate our food with. Thank you for putting this information out into the world. I look forward to reading more.

  • April

    Has anyone looked at the ingredients in Xocai Chocolate? They claim it is “healthy” chocolate. I have a family member selling it and it seems like a great option. I would love anyone’s thoughts or comments if they have tried it or read about it. They have sugar listed in the ingredients, but claim it is natural sugar… and what is Lecithin?

    • Critical Reader

      My personal opinion, it is a scam. Firstly, I do not like this pyramid selling scheme. Secondly, IMHO it is way overpriced and not even real chocolate. It is chocolate fortified with antioxidants, omega-3 oils and vitamins. You could get the same by buying a regular bar of dark chocolate and a bottle of multivitamins for a fraction of the cost.

      Lecithin – it is an emulsifier, used to make chocolate production cheaper (saves cacao butter, the most expensive ingredient of chocolate; increases longevity; makes it smoother; makes production time shorter), high-end chocolates normally do not contain any lecithin. For chocolate, mostly soy lecithin is used, sometimes also from canola or sun flowers.

  • Trish

    Oh…looks so delish! I usually buy Lindt 90% cocoa dark chocolate…but these look yum!

  • Unreal candy would have been a great option last night while handing out candy. I refused to compromise on my values for food, so I found some Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops were very good. Ah well, next year I will be prepared. Thanks Food Babe and Lisa for this post! You two rock :)

  • WebPixie

    I just heard of these and I’m going to check them out.

  • Anna

    Seems like every time I think it there is a post about it :) I know there are a lot of bad items/ingredients/chemicals in certain foods but our kicker is trans fats and has been for years. Unfortunately for everyone it is A LOT of work to try to balance eating healthy and keeping in a budget, but anything that is done is a huge improvement. With Halloween we didn’t want to go overboard with the reasons why things were “blacklisted” so I chose to talk to my 3 yr old about trans fats. She is super curious and retains so much. We seperated all of her trick or treats into the ok pile and then off limits pile. The ok pile still is candy but free of trans fats, which made me happy. She knows that trans fats are fake and terrible for your body. Now she goes overboard and asks does that have trans fat? Cute! Not sure how Grandma is feeling about that though….

  • Eliza

    I bought some ORGANIC dark chocolate, Green&Black, at Harris Teeter today & noticed that it contained ‘soy lecithin’….is that bad only if its not organic?…And, what is lecithin?

    • Critical Reader

      Lecithin is a natural emulsifier. It occurs in every cell and for commercial purposes it is isolated from mainly soy, sunflowers, canola or eggs. Lecithin itself is not harmful to ingest. However, there might be two issues for you to consider when deciding over good or bad.

      1. High-end chocolates do not contain any lecithin. Lecithin is used to speed up the chocolate manufacturing process, it saves cocoa butter and it prevents the fat to become rancid (longer shelf live). If you are an absolute gourmet you might want to go for the non-lecithin chocolates. If you just want to have a good tasting bar of chocolate and are not willing to pay $$, a bar with lecithin in it might do it.

      2. Lecithin is mostly derived from soy, which can cause problems for people highly allergic to soy. Also, if you are overly concerned about GMOs, you might want to avoid it. However, lecithin is a minor ingredient in chocolate (less than 1%) and it is a product just derived from soy – I doubt, that you would ingest any recombinant DNA by eating chocolate. Organic manufacturers are allowed to use 5 % non-organic ingredients, if there are no organic versions available. That seems to be the case for lecithin. BTW, GMO-labeling efforts as proposed by Prop37 would not require any labeling of GMO-soy lecithin.

  • SO sad! Well, you can just make your own! YUM! It’s SO easy AND mouth watering!! Enjoy your treat!!!

  • Critical Reader

    I am not a big Godiva fan either, but for fairnesses sake, the article is flawed by comparing apples with oranges. It would have been more helpful by just comparing different chocolate types and not by comparing chocolate with a candy bar. In terms of ingredients, a candy bar always looks bad against a chocolate bar.

    Concerning the title “Death by Chocolate?” – please, get real.

  • Unreal Candy is AWESOME! I had a tasting party and it was such a hit. I just bought the peanut butter cups at Michael’s crafts and they were CHEAPER than the Reese Cups…WAHOO!

  • Vickie

    This is my favorite local organic chocolate. Superior to any I’ve tasted.

  • Ashley

    I found that by sticking to chocolate with high cocoa levels you generally get less in the way of HFCS and other nasties. You also need A LOT less to satisfy the urges.

  • Courtney

    Thank you so much for this! I love chocolate and that’s been the most difficult transition for me to all real food. Now I can enjoy chocolate and and not eat all the bad stuff that goes along with most brands!

  • Anna

    I had no idea that Godiva was such a rip off!!!

    Small plug for a local company – Taza Chocolate in Massachusetts is amazing!!! They also give really incredible tours of their work area, but you can find their goods in almost all states across the US. :)

    • Shannon

      I second the plug for Taza. They are INCREDIBLE! I took their tour last summer and it was awesome and also a really good deal! They are a really wonderful company that ensures the highest quality for all of their products. I gave a lot of Taza chocolate for Christmas this year. :)

  • Scargosun

    Small plug for a local chocolate maker here in the Philly area – John and Kira. We used them for Thanksgiving gifts for our clients. They are amazing! I cannot pass them at the farmers market without buying some. They are huge promoters of small family farms and urban gardeners and have great partnerships with their suppliers.

  • This is awesome! I think it’s so easy to forget that so many “simple” foods are just full of bad stuff. Thanks for the tips on better alternatives.

  • Ada

    Another great healthier chocolate option is Sunspire ( their products are delicious, some of the best chocolate I’ve had, and I’m a chocolate snob! :)

  • I love this post, thank you! I’m a big fan of Unreal Candy. NibMor I’ve never heard of but sounds right up my alley based on your description. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  • sp

    I tried the unreal peanut butter cups this weekend. They were tasty, but don’t they contain soy lecithin? (sp?) and isn’t that a GMO?

  • Rebecca

    Is there a healthier alternative to making your own chocolate milk? I occasionally buy my son the dark chocolate almond milk, but the sugar content is insane!

  • A Braun

    If you’re going to go to the trouble to buy organic chocolate, it doesn’t mean much if it’s not also ethical. Camino is high quality organic, FAIR TRADE chocolate.

Leave a Reply