Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?

This is a guest post from Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) and New York Times Best Selling author. You can read more about her take on the food industry in her second book, Feeding You Lies!

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!

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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! Enter 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.

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

Vani Hari

Vani 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.

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107 thoughts on “Food Babe Investigates: Death by Chocolate?”

  1. Great article! May I quote from you on my web site? My focus is using cacao powder from unroasted beans in recipes designed to build health and burn fat. But I also wanted to cover the best and worst of commonly available chocolate. You voiced every warning I wanted to give concerning glitzy glamorous marketing.

    Thanks! Jane

  2. Food Babe/100 day- What is your opinion on organic soy lecithin? While reading the ingredients of an organic candy bar I found (Angell) I saw organic soy lecithin listed. In your opinion, would you find one that doesn’t have it at all or because its “organic” it might not be as bad as the regular GMO kind?

  3. I have seen several posts talking about nut allergy so I thought I would share that I found a bag of chocolate chips that are nut, dairy, and soy is Chatfield’s double dark semi sweet chips.

  4. Good info but not a single one of the “good” options is one I can allow in my house, they all may contain nuts and I have a child with a severe allergy to nuts and peanuts.

    I’ve searched all over and cannot find a chocolate that is free of all the crud, fair trade AND nut allergy friendly. Not sure such a thing exists.

  5. I also stopped purchasing Godiva chocolates after many years as a loyal customer. I now prefer to eat Lindt chocolates. I have notified Godiva of my stance concerning the bad ingredients that they use in their chocolates.

  6. I was wondering about Xocai Healthy Chocolate. They claim to have healthy chocolate and have health and nutrition benefits. What is your opinion?

  7. Do you know of any chocolate powder or chocolate milk product for kids that does not contain Carrageenan, along with all this other junk?

  8. i heard dark chocolate is healthy so i bought some super dark 90% cacao chocolate. i must be healthy because it doesn’t taste very good.
    i try to eat a little dark chocolate, walnuts, blueberries and a half avocado almost daily. that’s as far as i’m going other than trying to eat a little better all around.
    to eat better i shop the local supermarket that uses union labor, but charges at least 30% more than walmart. it makes me think about what i buy and how much. even paying more for food i’ve stayed within my $200/month budget.

  9. My last experience with a box of mainstream chocolates was a ginormous junk food binge. Even limiting myself to one or two chocolates an evening, it led to horrible cravings for pizza, Chinese food, and various other types of grossness. I think it has something to do with the combo of refined GMO sugar and artificial colors/other additives, since I experienced similar cravings after doing the glucose challenge during pregnancy and the drink they give you contains that stuff. That doctors intentionally feed something that awful to pregnant women is a whole ‘nother issue…

  10. Like Sharnell, i am left confused…which is happening more and more as i start to try and cut processed/GM foods out of my diet. The Unreal Candy not only contains soy lecithin, but also “hydrolyzed soy protein”. i am certain i’ve read that anything hydrolyzed is best left alone.

    In a general sense, how come one source says avoid *whatever* ingredient but another will claim it is ok to consume? Who is correct?

  11. I noticed that Unreal Candy is also made with soy lecithin. Does the fact that this brand is Non-GMO make that ingredient less dangerous to us? I’m confused…

    1. I’ve seen Unreal Candy at a store near me, and I remember having similar thoughts. I was surprised to see it on the “approved” list. I’ll check it out again, though with if there are so many other (maybe better?) choices, it’ll be low on my list to try.

      Thanks for all the research and info, Vani.

  12. Sadly, none of these are safe for a child with a nut allergy. So we buy Cadbury’s buttons (in Canada). Not organic, but they are fair trade. But I’d buy “regular” chocolate (and have) so that my child can have some. Organic chocolatiers need to get their noses out of the air and realize that their products are only “superior” if someone can eat them.

  13. I love Chocolove…. it was cocoa butter in it, but I think its a good choice for those special occasions

  14. I’m a big fan of UNREAL – they are priced comparably to the candies they’re competing with (M&Ms, Snickers, PB cups), with no artificial anything – and they’re fairly easy to find (you don’t have to go to a “natural foods” store)! They even try to promote healthy eating – fruit is “nature’s candy”. That said, my kids don’t really like their M&Ms. :(

  15. ENDANGERED SPECIES Dark Chocolate – all of their Dark chocolate is non-GMO and their cocoa is 100% ethically traded.

  16. can you get Whittiker’s chocolate? I live in New Zealand and it is a brand here that only uses the finest ingredients with very few chemicals or nasty additives. If you can find it I strongly recommend it

  17. Thanks for this list. As a Seattlite and loyal customer, I think you should consider adding Theo to the list! They are a very socially and environmentally motivated company, which often translates to healthy as well… Fair trade, organic, non-GMO.

  18. I stopped buying Godiva. bought a lot of cherry cordial.
    I buy the Lindt 85% cacao and it seems ok to me. but I do not know, it’s all so confusing. I recently started changing the food, I’m still fooled by the names.

    1. Ingredients: chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, demerara sugar, bourbon vanilla beans. Contains cocoa solids 85% min.
      May contain traces of peanuts/tree nuts/milk/soybean

    2. Lindt is non-GMO. They make this claim clearly on their website and most of their products are manufactured in Germany (GMOs are banned from food).

  19. 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!

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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. :)

    1. 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. :)

  23. 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!

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