Posted on January 29, 2012 by


Dear Dave,

There is a lot of buzz on the news and the web these days touting the health benefits of chocolate – but I always thought of it as a ‘vice.‘  Can you shed some light on this – is it superfood or junk food?

 Becky,  New Mexico

 Hello Becky,

The raw form of chocolate is usually called cacao.  It is commonly available as a powder or in small pieces called ‘nibs.‘  Cacao most certainly is a superfood.  Some of its many beneficial properties include helping with fat-loss, regulating blood sugar, boosting the cardiovascular system, and preventing cavities.  The list of benefits is immense; enough for its own series of articles – but many of these benefits are reversed when the food is over processed and additives are introduced.

 Cacao has a very strong, bitter taste – which is why it is usually combined with other ingredients and cooked into what we call ‘chocolate.‘  Even a very dark chocolate has been highly processed and usually contains dangerous ingredients.  Cocoa is the basic cooked version of cacao.

Here are three very different types of  chocolate treats that can be found in many stores:

LOVE CUPS (raw) -DARK CACAO flavor        77% cacao

cacao, agave

CHOCOLOVE (not raw) – EXTRA STRONG DARK flavor    77% cocoa

cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin

HERSHEY’S (not raw) – SPECIAL DARK flavor   –  60% cocoa

sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR emuslifier, vanillin (artificial flavor), milk

(***I found it interesting that according to HERSHEY’S website:   “Ingredients information are not available online at this time. Please consult the package label or call us at (800) 468-1714 for further information.”  )

The first treat is a raw food; minimally processed and containing many beneficial nutrients.

The second treat may have some benefits left in the cocoa, but your body first has to deal with the sugar, soy, and any other mysteries as the label ALSO says ‘may contain traces of milk & nuts.’

The third treat (note sugar as the first ingredient) has a cool logo on the label that reads “NATURAL SOURCE OF FLAVANOL ANTIOXIDANTS.”  This may hold some merit – but read the OTHER ingredients…..Your body will absorb inflammation from the sugar, and it is questionable if, after sorting through the artificial pile of substances, your body will find (much less use) those ‘flavanols!’

The golden rule here is that our bodies DON’T DO MATH!  If you give your tummy something 77% healthy it doesn’t say ‘well thats OK – I’ll just write off the 23%’  This doesn’t mean we are never to enjoy a treat – but just be aware of what you are actually eating – a ‘superfood’ does NOT contain sugar, no matter what the TV tells you!


Here is a picture that will help me explain:

Cacao Pods on Cacao Tree

CACAO PODS (containing cacao seeds – to be crushed into cacao nibs – to be ground into cacao powder – to be roasted, added to sugar, cocoa butter, and an emulsifier, and called CHOCOLATE)

Posted in: Ask Dave