Last week we discussed the many health benefits of Cacao, and of course every good thing has its concerns as well.
Be mindful that cacao isn’t all healthy, there are some dangers, such as eating too much can cause heart palpitations, headache, nausea, negative mood changes, sweating, trembling, troubling sleeping, and even vomiting. I’ve become very trembly, with rapid heart rate, and nausea when I’ve had too much. My system has always been very sensitive to stimulants so now I’m extra careful. It’s important to listen to your body and see how it responds.
Pregnant women should be cautious when consuming large amounts of raw cacao because it may be related to low birth weight, premature labor, and even miscarriage. Theobromine likely passes through the placenta barrier, impacting the developing fetus. (6) It also may not be safe during breastfeeding because of caffeine’s impact on a newborn’s system. Caffeine or stimulants similar to caffeine are not good for a developing nervous system.
Also be aware that it’s a high caloric food. If you eat an entire bar of chocolate, certain brands can add as many as 600 calories to your daily intake.
And there is more: “Cardiac failure and death; lesions in the thymus and testes; heart, sperm damage, and decreased weight were observed in laboratory rabbits that were fed very high doses of theobromine over time. Testicular lesions and sperm damage were observed after moderate-to-high exposure in laboratory rats. Decreased fertility, reduced pup weight, fewer live pups per litter, and delayed bone development were observed in laboratory animals ingesting high-to-very high doses of theobromine before and/or during pregnancy. Delayed heart development, decreased weight, and impaired immune responses were observed in the offspring of laboratory mice that were fed low doses of theobromine during pregnancy.”(7)
That sounds pretty scary, but it’s very difficult to consume a lethal dose. Too much isn’t healthy, and like most things, I believe chocolate should be consumed in moderation. Don’t stress too much – an average woman would have to eat 337 Hershey’s dark chocolate bars in order to ingest a toxic amount.
Insect and Rodent Contamination
No one is reporting this, but as a consumer I wanted to understand what’s in the chocolate I’m eating, even the raw organic kind. I did some sleuthing and was shocked to discover some disturbing facts. There are standards for how much insect parts, rodent hair and feces is allowed in our chocolate, thank goodness. But the fact that it’s in there may help you moderate your intake a bit more. Here are the regulations:
The FDA Regulations state: CPG Sec. 515.700 Chocolate & Chocolate Liquor – Adulteration with Insect and Rodent Filth States:
1. Insect Filth
a. The chocolate in six, 100 gram subsamples contains an average of 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams.
b. Any one subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments, even if the overall average of all the subsamples is less than 60.
2. Rodent Filth
a. The chocolate in six, 100 gram subsamples contains an average of more than 1.0 rodent hair per 100 grams, regardless of the size of the hairs or hair fragments.
b. Any one subsample contains more than 3 rodent hairs even if the overall average is less than 1.0 rodent hair. (8)
Ok, so there is rodent hair (and likely poop), and insect parts in your chocolate. Gross! But don’t focus on it, it’s part of the industry. My optimistic twist is: In many countries insects are a part of their regular diet. Or, it may help stimulate your immune system.
Is Chocolate Addictive?
The simple answer is “Yes,” chocolate is addictive. “Everything in moderation” can feel difficult with chocolate as many people eat it every day. I used to be one of those people, but noticed how addictive it was to my body. I rarely crave things, however, just one small square or two of 85% cacao could cause cravings for me the next few days. And I wouldn’t only crave cacao, I would crave sugar and carbs too. This is an uncommon experience for me so I took out the cacao, resisted the cravings by working out, drinking more water, taking magnesium, and meditating. My system quickly stabilized.
You may notice some addictive tendencies with cacao as well. It may lead you to craving coffee, alcohol, sugar, other caffeine and other things. It’s unfortunately an acceptable addiction in our culture, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I like you to have a choice. If you are addicted, then you likely don’t have a choice, you’re running on autopilot, your brain chemistry is running the show. But you can over-ride this and find a better balance.
I like to use food as medicine and chocolate is no different. If I’ve been traveling on a red-eye for a speaking engagement, although I’ve taken my adaptogenic herbs to balance my cortisol levels, I may eat a square of 95% or even 100% raw homemade cacao, to give me a tiny boost. I’m mindful of its antioxidant and stimulant benefits and use them to help my body recover from travel.
If you notice that you’re feeling addicted to chocolate or anything, I recommend you check out my blog on Emotional Eating. It’s common that many of the practices I offer there are helpful when you find yourself craving something. I believe most addictions have a root beyond just physical, although the physical part is important too. Often there are emotional aspects of addiction that tend to go unaddressed. I desire empowering you to deal with the root of addictions or addictive tendencies as well as with the physical components of dependency. Even though chocolate is a socially acceptable stimulant, it may not be in your highest best interest to over-consume it or even eat it daily.
But how much should you really be eating?
How Much Is Healthy?
It is ideal to eat 70% and higher dark chocolate to avoid large amounts of added sugar and dairy. On average, consuming 1.0-1.6 oz of dark cacao daily is considered healthy. This is approximately half of a 3.5 oz bar.
Raw organic cacao powder or melted cacao paste can be used in healthy raw desserts, smoothies, or green drinks to support your body in the morning. I recommend not eating chocolate at night, even if you don’t feel like it’s a stimulant to your system. You may not notice what your brain chemistry is doing, even if you aren’t visibly stimulated – it does have an impact.
You can purchase raw, fermented, sprouted, organic cacao beans, nibs, powder, and paste on the internet these days. I often melt cacao paste with cacao butter (also obtainable at organic healthfood stores or on-line) to make raw chocolate mousse or chocolate pie. I like to get mine from Sunfoods Super foods. Click here to use my affiliate code Z1K0N0PG.
Cacao butter is the fat. White chocolate is mostly made of cacao butter with lots of added sugar and milk. There is a healthier version that can be used on your body.
Cacao butter is delicious for the skin. It can be used on its own or added to a mix of other therapeutic skin support to create a lovely hand, foot, and body cream. I melt them on very low heat then add to a glass jar and store in my bathroom to use after bathing. I love adding ¼ cacao butter, ¼ shea butter, ¼ lanolin, ¼ mango butter (optional), and ¼ coconut oil. I then add a few drops of my favorite essential oils like lavender, geranium, rose, vanilla, or tangerine.
I hope you enjoy your therapeutic chocolate in moderation!
Blessings of Vibrant Health,
Kristin Grayce McGary
Health & Lifestyle Alchemist