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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 22, 2014

The Dark Side of Dark Chocolate

By Mark Sisson
142 Comments

Dark ChocolateI love dark chocolate. You love dark chocolate. Everyone but the most soulless, coldhearted, and puppy-hating among us love dark chocolate. And I hesitated even writing this post because the scientific evidence that dark chocolate offers numerous health benefits when consumed in moderation is substantial and, in my opinion, undeniable. However, there is a “dark side” to dark chocolate. That doesn’t mean dark chocolate is “bad,” just that nothing in this life is binary. Like any other healthy food we eat, there are caveats and limitations. Things to keep in mind.

So let’s take a look at some of the murkier aspects of dark chocolate to see if there’s anything we would be better of being aware of.

It’s food, not manna from the gods with magical properties and negative calories.

As healthy as it (or any food) might be, and as many unique polyphenols and hepatoprotective fatty acids and reactive oxygen species-scavenging abilities it might have, dark chocolate still contains calories. It’s still energy-dense candy that will make you gain weight if you eat too much of it. 100 grams of dark chocolate has over 500 calories, give or take and depending on sugar content. That’s a solid meal that some people are treating like a free supplement.

How much is too much? That depends on what you do with the rest of your day. If you’re really active and/or account for chocolate in your overall food intake, you can eat a bit more. But a little bit goes a long way. That’s exactly why I suggest (and personally prefer) the high-cacao chocolates – you get more bang for your buck and don’t need (or want) so much. A square, maybe two squares, maybe three or four of the 85%+ dark chocolate provides plenty of benefits and any more is frankly unpalatable. Studies showing the cardiovascular and blood flow benefits of chocolate use anything from 6.3 grams to 100 grams of chocolate, with most falling somewhere in the middle. This is potent stuff and you don’t really need a lot of it.

Not all chocolate is created equal.

I probably don’t have to say this, but any chocolate with less than 85% cacao is veering dangerously close to Hershey’s territory. The dark chocolate you eat should be bitter. It should bite back. It should last ten or fifteen seconds in your mouth before melting. Again, not all chocolate is created equal.

It might be addictive.

Scientists aren’t sure what’s responsible for the “addiction,” but people definitely crave chocolate. It’s the most commonly craved food in most studies on the topic.

But why?

It’s probably a combination of the sugar, the psychoactive compounds in cocoa (caffeine, theobromine, anandamide, and dozens of others yet to be quantified and qualified), the texture, and the high calorie content that make chocolate such an attractive food. Who doesn’t like sweet, energy-dense, delicious, mood-altering food?

Eating too much, even of a good thing like chocolate, can have negative metabolic effects that counteract the beneficial ones.

It can contain mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are, well, toxins produced by mold. Aflatoxin-producing molds are endemic in the tropics and frequently show up in commodity crops like coffee, corn, peanuts, and cacao. Of cocoa products, dark chocolate is the most likely to have mycotoxins, while low-cocoa chocolates like white chocolate have very little to none. Is it a problem?

I think it depends. Certain people seem especially sensitive to mycotoxins. Take Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Executive, who really harps on the mycotoxin issue and gets a lot of flak for it from people who think he’s exaggerating. It’s clear that he’s sensitive to them while others are not. Mycotoxins clearly do exist in some samples of dark chocolate, though rarely exceeding levels generally recognized to be safe. They’re not imaginary. Do I worry about them? Not personally, because I haven’t noticed any negative symptoms, they’re not present in every piece of dark chocolate, and when they are present it rarely exceeds the safety limit (which, again, might be too high for some individuals).

If dark chocolate is giving you symptoms of mycotoxin toxicity, or any negative symptoms for that matter, you shouldn’t eat it.

Cocoa flavanols are excellent, but there is no way to know the flavanol content of a particular bar.

Eating dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao (85% and up) is a good start, but any two given bars, even if they’re from the same batch with identical cacao content, will have different levels of flavanols. That’s a natural consequence of consuming real, whole food. The nutrient content of two members of the same plant species will differ from one to another, as mother nature doesn’t deal with beakers and microgram scales when she’s doling out the micronutrients and producing polyphenols.

But it does mean that your favorite dark chocolate that tastes so good and so smooth that you can’t believe it’s chock full of antioxidants might not be so healthy. Cocoa flavanols are generally quite bitter, so bitterness is a rough barometer for antioxidant content.

It contains a substance “related to amphetamine.”

In just about every scary anti-cocoa article I’ve read, the author makes a big deal about a chocolate alkaloid called phenethylamine (PEA). What is PEA? PEA is in the same chemical family as amphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), mescaline (found in peyote), and all sorts of illicit substances, but it’s also a human neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, and we endogenously manufacture psychoactive amounts of PEA in our own bodies on a regular basis. Does this mean our central nervous systems are basically meth labs? No. PEA is an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and can trigger the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Some have even called it the “love hormone.”

Besides, oral PEA isn’t active unless you inhibit monoamine oxidase, the enzyme that breaks it down and prevents it from reaching the brain. If you want to get the stimulatory and other psychoactive, potentially negative effects of PEA, you have to take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) along with it. In fact, since depressed people have lower levels of PEA and related metabolites, concurrent PEA and MAOI supplementation has been shown to improve mood and have anti-depressant qualities. Chocolate also improves mood, although via polyphenol action, not PEA. Perhaps depressed people who tend to eat more chocolate are actually (and successfully) trying to self-medicate.

Are we chocolate-eaters safe from PEA, then? A recent study posits a connection between chocolate, PEA, and Parkinson’s disease, and in vitro research suggests a mechanism for PEA-induced neurodegeneration. But they’re talking about endogenous PEA – the kind that’s made in the body and gets to the brain – not chocolate-derived PEA. And another study found that PEA levels are depressed in patients with Parkinson’s disease, so there’s no clear answer either way.

It can cause migraines.

One of the more commonly reported migraine triggers is dark chocolate, with the caffeine, phenethylamine, and/or tyramine content getting the blame. Caffeine is present in greater amounts in many other foods, like coffee and tea – although many caffeine abstainers could be unaware of the caffeine in chocolate and thus susceptible to it. PEA is a minor part of chocolate that isn’t even orally active, while tyramine is found in greater amounts in cheese, aged meats, and other cured or fermented items.

But one trial found that among frequent migraine and other headache sufferers, dark chocolate was no more a trigger than carob. An earlier double blind study in people who reported having migraines after consuming chocolate also found that chocolate was not the cause. One theory is that whatever is causing the migraine also causes the desire for and subsequent consumption of chocolate.

Still, a migraine is nothing to be trifled with, and I find it hard to believe that everyone reporting chocolate as a trigger is “just mistaken” or “lying to themselves.” I don’t discount personal, direct experience as readily as some. Don’t eat chocolate if it triggers migraines.

It supports child slavery, depending on the source.

A disconcertingly large portion of the cacao grown on the Ivory Coast of West Africa is handled by child laborers, often indentured against their will. Slaves, essentially.

Child slavery/labor doesn’t affect the nutrient content of the chocolate, but I find it does leave a bad taste in the mouth. Some would counter that it’s difficult to find any food with purely ethical origins. That may be true. Agriculture can be a dirty business. Still, it’s good to make better choices when we can and when we know that an ethical problem exists. Spending a little extra or being more discerning in your choice of chocolate may not bring about world peace or end suffering, but it does make a small difference. It’s better than nothing. And hey, the producers that pay attention to labor ethics tend to also pay attention to the quality of their chocolate.

Here’s a list of companies that get their chocolate from ethical farms. And here’s another list. These aren’t exhaustive, but they get you started. You can also look for “Fair Trade” on the label.

In lieu of a “Fair Trade”-type stamp on the package, get chocolate made from cacao grown in South or Central America, since child labor/slavery isn’t an issue in those regions.

All that said, do I still recommend the regular if moderate consumption of dark chocolate? Yes. I was worried about the coming chocolate shortage disrupting the steady flow of my “brown gold” if you people kept buying up all the chocolate. Potential problems exist, but none of them are so monumental that you should fear the stuff. Obviously, if dark chocolate gives you migraines, triggers binges, or makes you feel awful and gain belly fat, don’t eat it. But if you’re enjoying your dark chocolate and your health is good and you’re pleased with the effect it has on your body weight, go for it.

Just remember that dark chocolate is ultimately candy – a high quality treat with specific health benefits that you should savor and enjoy in moderate doses, not gorge on as if it were a meal.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What are your thoughts? Is dark chocolate overrated as a health food?

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142 Comments on "The Dark Side of Dark Chocolate"

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Groktimus Primal
2 years 5 months ago

I’ve always liked white chocolate the best and then milk chocolate. Dark chocolate was always my least favorite. I was always in it for the sugar hit! Eventually you’d just find me in the gutter mainlining marshmallow peeps.

Shary
Shary
2 years 5 months ago

Re. the white chocolate, me too. I’ve never liked dark chocolate (too bitter), rarely eat milk chocolate, and have never craved chocolate of any kind. Given a choice of flavors, I always preferred to get my sugar fix from something other than chocolate. I guess I’m just weird, or lack the chocolate gene or something. I must lack the marshmallow gene too since I wouldn’t be caught dead eating Peeps.

Linda
Linda
2 years 5 months ago

Apparently I don’t have the chocolate gene either. I have a soul, love puppies (and kitties) and I have a warm heart- i just don’t like chocolate of any kind. I have plenty of other vices so I’m OK with not having chocolate as one!

Christine
Christine
2 years 5 months ago

I have never liked chocolate either. When I was a child & people gave me chocolate Easter eggs, they would still be in my cupboard uneaten at Christmas!

Joan
Joan
2 years 5 months ago

I agree..I like chocolate good enough…my pick would be milk chocolate, if I ate it, but CARAMEL that my fix..especially salted caramel ice cream….don’t eat it now that I’m primal, ’cause I know its not good for me.

Natalie
Natalie
2 years 5 months ago

Oh man do I have a link for you!
http://www.torani.com/products/sugar-free-salted-caramel-syrup

Make some coconut milk icecream and drizzle that over it and enjoy 🙂

Steph
Steph
2 years 5 months ago

After eating more chocolate than I should on Easter Sunday, I’ve been staying away from all forms of chocolate. Though I’ll probably have another bite in a few weeks.

Paul
Paul
2 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the information on Mycotoxins. Chocolate, especially high cocoa chocolate makes me sick in minutes. It took years to figure out what the trigger was and avoid chocolate, although I never ‘preferred’ chocolate even as a kid. For a long time I thought it was venison since I had a couple of incidents after eating venison without making the connection it was the chocolate dessert after the meal.

Sila
Sila
2 years 5 months ago

It took me months to figure out that dark chocolate is making me sick, It was bad enough that I end up in the hospital going through all sort of tests trying to diagnose the cause, with no result. By pure chance I had to go off all the coffeine (and i don’t drink tea or coffee, so that meat only chocolate elimination) and all my symptoms are gone!

Janine
Janine
2 years 5 months ago

I know with my horses I feed a toxin binder to combat the mycotoxins that grow on grass. My horse is susceptable to them. They cause digestive issues which lead to a raft of different ailments from laminitis (de-laminating of the hoof wall) to photosensitivity (sunburn and eye issues). Dairy farmers often feed toxin binder as well because silage, baleage and rye pasture contains too many mycotoxins for the cows to deal with.

I wonder if there is a human equivalent that could help those people who are sensitive to mycotoxins?

SDC
SDC
7 months 7 days ago

There is, its called activated charcoal, you can read about it here: https://www.bulletproofexec.com/the-strangest-way-to-detox/ basically it binds itself to bad toxins, and then you pass it through your body. Can even help with hangovers.

Cynthia
6 months 30 days ago

Sweet potato fiber is also an excellent binder.

Daniela
Daniela
2 years 5 months ago

You said to look for “Free Trade” chocolate. I think you meant “Fair Trade.”
Free trade means unfettered by import limits, labor laws, environmental regulations- anything that could stand in the way of making money, basically.
Fair trade means ethical treatment of farm workers, fair wages, and smart environmental stewardship.
It’s confusing to just about everyone that the two phrases are so similar.

Scott
Scott
2 years 5 months ago

He said Fair Trade

Lyndsey
Lyndsey
2 years 5 months ago

Import limits are incredibly unfair and hinders choice. I love having prices artificially high, don’t you?

That being said fair trade is over all better, but it DOESN’T guarantee environmental stewardship.

C L Deards
2 years 5 months ago

For people with herpes another dark aspect of dark chocolate is that it’s high in L-arginine. Herpes feeds off L-arginine.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 5 months ago

Lamb is also high in L-arginine.

M.
M.
2 years 5 months ago

Yup. I love dark chocolate and pretty much got addicted to eating the 90% stuff mixed with almond butter and coconut oil. Only after 5 cold sores within about 6 months did I make the connection and give it up 🙁

C L Deards
2 years 5 months ago

I had the same experience.

I was sad because I loved the 85-90% dark chocolate. I viewed it as a treat.

My plan is to add some to my diet in parallel with a lysine supplement. Lysine and arginine compete for the same receptors. If I can block the arginine with the lysine maybe I can still eat chocolate.

But is chocolate worth the hassle?

RenegadeRN
RenegadeRN
2 years 5 months ago

A little lysine will rebalance excess arginine!

Diane
Diane
2 years 5 months ago

“A square, maybe two squares, maybe three or four…” Yep, that’s how it begins…

Kelda
2 years 5 months ago
Yes, I’ve found this too. On and off over the last 5 Primal years I’ve had chocolate in and out of the diet. It certainly triggers me into wanting more and more and slipping into the marshmallow swamp as well! The caffeine/theobromine content seems to be an issue for me. I’m much more even about all foods when they are out of the equation. I’ve recently read in a natural HRT book that some clinical studies have linked caffeine (and its fellow stimulants) with breast tenderness. I cut the stimulants out 6 weeks back and voila no tenderness and a… Read more »
Melissa
Melissa
2 years 5 months ago

I used to have ridiculous chocolate cravings. I could literally eat bars of baker’s chocolate. Once I addressed a severe magnesium deficiency, my chocolate cravings went to a more typical level (I like to have one or two squares of 90% cacao chocolate once every day or two). I am guessing that the high levels of magnesium in chocolate have something to do with this.

AKarnes
AKarnes
2 years 5 months ago

Eating unsweetened baking chocolate as I read this… (breakfast of champions!) I was just looking into the magnesium issue as well. Interesting.

Karl
Karl
2 years 5 months ago

In addition to the points raised here, dark chocolate also tends to contain a substantial amount of heavy metals, I believe – albeit depending on the cocoa-growing area, and the overall impact appears to be a controversial issue.

Harry Mossman
2 years 5 months ago

My sister works for the State of California on lead issues. Apparently, lots of third-world countries still use leaded gas. I’m sure there are lists of lead-free chocolate. I don’t know off hand where they are.

Karl
Karl
2 years 5 months ago

Harry,

I would assume you are right. I am personally not into any kind of chocolate; I just heard about this issue from a friend who is doing research on the link between cadmium exposure via food and kidney disease, and thought it deserved to be mentioned.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 5 months ago

Lots of second-world countries also still use leaded gas–Italy is one.

Karl
Karl
2 years 5 months ago

Wait – Italy is a second-world country in your book? Interesting perspective…

richard
richard
2 years 5 months ago

The division of the world into three worlds was political not about living standards. The first world was the US and its allies. The Second world was the communist countries. The third world was everyone else. The terms have made little sense for the last 20 years and have shifted in their meanings a bit but but Italy was always part of the first world.

Bill C
Bill C
2 years 5 months ago

From the point of view of the US and its allies, anyway. From the Soviet perspective, the USSR and its allies were first world countries, and the US and allies were second world.

Pippo
Pippo
1 year 1 month ago

Italy hasn’t been using leaded fuel since 2002, just like everyone else in the EU, as the same regulations apply to all EU countries.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
2 years 5 months ago

They need to watch episode 7 of the cosmos series!

Carol
3 months 9 minutes ago

You’re right- lead, nickel, and cadmium. Consumer Labs has an excellent review of different dark chocolate products, rating them on various factors including heavy metal content.

Goddess
2 years 5 months ago

Despite all my adhering to a Paleo approach to diet, I seem unable to shake my “love affair” with dark chocolate. I’m not sure if life is worth living without the dark chocolate, and an occasional glass of red wine. Darn it! Any suggestions on what to replace it with? I too like a treat of some kind at the end of a long day.

Harry Mossman
2 years 5 months ago

A little red wine and chocolate are fine under Primal unless you have serious problems with some of the issues Mark mentions.

Christine
Christine
2 years 5 months ago
I have not tried this, but apparently Divine Organics make a Raw PILI NUT BUTTER with coconut sugar in & if you stir it so that it is very liquid & then pour it into a chocolate mould & then put it into the fridge to harden, it tastes like chocolate & doesn’t have any cacao in. Pili nuts contain a lot of magnesium just the same as chocolate does & appear to have a lot of health benefits. I have no idea whether they are any better or worse for you than cacao, but for anyone not able to… Read more »
Goddess
2 years 5 months ago

I haven’t heard of pili nut butter. Thanks, I plan to look into it.

VickiV
VickiV
2 years 5 months ago

Don’t “replace” it with anything. Eat the chocolate, drink the wine! LIVE life!

Goddess
2 years 5 months ago

I like your attitude! 🙂

Harry Mossman
2 years 5 months ago
Thanks for the info on slave-free chocolate. I just did a report on slavery in 18th and 19th century England. The slave ships and slavery on Caribbean Islands was deeply evil. People in England sort of knew that but they just “had to have” sugar for their coffee, tea and chocolate. (Sound familiar?) And white people couldn’t (wouldn’t) work under those conditions, so what could they do. Slavery was officially abolished nearly everywhere in the 19th century. But there are more slaves now than at any time in history, an estimated 30 million de facto slaves. There are long lists… Read more »
Paul in Australia
Paul in Australia
2 years 5 months ago

Good you bought that up, When I was a kid (I was born in 1961) I thought that slavery was something that happened in the bad old days before William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately as we now know, it’s very much alive and well in the 21st century. The 30 million slaves you spoke of, is two and a half to over three times the number (depending on which historian you speak to) of Africans shipped to the Americas in four centuries of legal slave trading. Every little bit to raise public awareness helps.

River
River
2 years 5 months ago

Endangered Species used to have a better supply chain for their chocolate, but moved toward a very lax certification in the “Rainforest Alliance” seal. Now they do not have anyone overseeing their sourcing to let the consumer know where items are coming from- a true red flag! Some amazing Authentic Fair Trade brands (meaning the sources are traceable and come from small cooperative farms) : Equal Exchange (also a worker coop), Divine, Alter Eco, Theo.

Serena
2 years 5 months ago

But chocolate, like beer, wine, sausage, asparagus and some kinds of cheese and smoked fish, does contain an MAOI. Also, the sugar can be fermented by yeast in the body, and then partially metabolized into trace amounts of MAOIs. Thus, the PEA activates. I found chocolate highly stimulating long before I knew this.

Alice
Alice
2 years 5 months ago

I don’t really like dark chocolate much. I don’t eat it; chocolate has always been about the sugar. And I’ve never craved it, not even the sweet stuff.

Zach rusk
2 years 5 months ago

Denise Minger sums up the diets that work for optimal health as:
1. No processed grains
2. No refined sugar
3. No industrial oils
How is chocolate ok if it isn’t 100% with no added refined sugars?

jack lea mason
jack lea mason
2 years 5 months ago

Palatable chocolate is candy i.e. Kiddie Crack. Sugar and Cocoa are appropriate topics following the holiday known for an over indulgence in “chocolate” resurrection rodents. Any addictive substance that is artificially laced with sweeteners may not qualify as a health food. I must admit, my weakness is the dark chocolate almond clusters. One is never enough.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 5 months ago

That’s why I’m shifting to mescaline…

matheus
matheus
2 years 5 months ago

Three thoughts:

1. one further potential problem with chocolate is histamine intolerance. Because of the tyramine content, people with histamine intolerance (DAO deficiency) can’t eat chocolate (that can also be the reason for migraines)

2. if you want to get a chocolate kick without the calories, try making “hot chocolate” with just pure cocoa powder (baking cocoa). dissolve a teaspoon or two in a mug with hot water and enjoy!

3. maybe I’m just weird, but I can happily eat a whole bar of 85%+ chocolate. love the stuff.

janitje
janitje
2 years 5 months ago

I didn’t know about the tyramine-histamine link. Thanks for adding the DAO deficiency information! That’s really helpful.

Christine
Christine
2 years 5 months ago
Histamine Intolerance can be caused by things other than DAO deficiency, but that is certainly one thing. DAO deficiency could be caused by a lack of Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and copper which all increase DAO activity or otherwise you may have a polymorphism which stops DAO being formed properly. If you have a DAO deficiency (there are tests available for this) & you do not lack the required nutrients, then you can get DAO supplements (isolated from pig kidney) (e.g. Histame, HistDAO or DAOsin) to help with food related histamine intolerance. Pancreatic enzymes may help some people & bromelain… Read more »
Lauren
Lauren
4 months 22 days ago

Im with you on that one. Can get through a bar in 24hours easily. Have been addicted to it for a about 4 years. It isnt doing me any favours. Time to depart I feel…

Alice
Alice
2 years 5 months ago

Dark chocolate is extremely high in oxalates, making it off-limits for anyone with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones.

Harry Mossman
2 years 5 months ago

Various doc’s, including my urologist, told me to avoid high-oxalate foods. My reaction was “There go most of the healthy plant foods.” My primary card doc sent me to a nephrologist, which was mostly a waste of insurance money. But he told me to take some calcium when I eat high oxalates. (He said Tums but I usually add some dairy.) You *must* eat/take the calcium *at the same time* as the oxalates. They bind together in your intestines instead of your kidneys. There is research to support this.

Alice
Alice
2 years 5 months ago

Harry, yes, I take powdered calcium with food (Tums is full of garbage like artificial colors). I have had success finding low or medium oxalate vegetables. I eat broccoli, dino kale, squash, cauliflower, root vegetables, cabbage and lettuces off the top of my head. After I used calcium and dairy with low to medium oxalate foods I was retested and my urine oxalate value was still a little too high, meaning oxalates were getting through despite the calcium, so I’m not going to overload with dark chocolate.

Carol
3 months 18 minutes ago

Citric acid is said to prevent kidney stones. The stones are often partially made up of calcium (calcuim oxalate thus being a culprit). Vit. D and K2 shunt the calcium away from soft tissue and into the bones and teeth where it belongs.

Graham Ballachey
2 years 5 months ago

I love dark chocolate. I find it’s great for telling my brain that a meal is over. Just a square or two shuts down the appetite (for a little while….).

I’ve noticed some people essentially calling cacao poison, which doesn’t make sense to me. Why would it be so popular worldwide if that’s all it is? For all the good, there must be a little bad. The yin and yang of chocolate, if you will.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 5 months ago

I’m a huge Weston A. Price Foundation supporter, but don’t agree with their ‘never touch chocolate’ manifesto.

Sebastijan Veselic
2 years 5 months ago

I was not aware of the child slavery/source of chocolate part. Thank you for that.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 5 months ago
Regarding migraines, I always thought it was the caffeine that brought them on, but apparently, it’s the opposite: a migraine is when blood vessels in the head contracting against the blood supply within, slowing down the flow. Caffeine makes those constricted blood vessels expand, aiding migraine relief. That’s why OTC migraine medicines contain both caffeine and an NSAID–both are vasodilators. The same thing (different area affected) happens in menstrual cramps, and coincidentally, the OTC medicines for those also contain the same combination of caffeine and NSAID–vasodilators–for the same reason. So why do people shell out money for both migraine relief… Read more »
LS
LS
2 years 5 months ago
I love chocolate, crave it…..but only when I don’t get enough carbs & or calories (I am an ectomorph and we ectomorphs need more carbs than most people, who tend to be ectomorphs, mesomorphs or some combination of any of the three). However, when I do eat it, it is a terrible experience…after the chewing stops. I cannot eat even a single square of 72% dark, w/out terrible symptoms (becoming irritable, nose twitching, compulsive behavior, running my finger along my face where there might be a tiny, microscopic piece of flaky skin, insomnia, vivid nightmares, aggressive behavior). When it wears… Read more »
Morgan
Morgan
2 years 4 months ago

Are you sure you need more carbs?? It sounds like you would benefit from more animal fat.

LS
LS
2 years 4 months ago

No, been having 15-20 pints of sugar free coconut frozen desert, fatty fish, dark chicken thighs & dark turkey legs & thighs, beef, ground bison, tons of olive oil, nuts, avocado…..I am 2-3 lbs over my natural weight of 104 (I am around 5 ft 6.5 or 5 ft 7)…too much fat has done this, never had cellulite on my buttocks before (not that it’s a lot, it’s a little but still…). And I know I need more carbs bc that’s what I crave, esp. on lift days, I lift weights.

LS
LS
2 years 4 months ago

Haha, that’s 15-20 pints a month…forget to put that in there. Also, don’t need more fat, my cholesterol has gone up from 120 to 244 since I’ve changed my diet to include all that fat…def. not more fat. Oh, and add Kettle chips in there too, which I have quit as of a couple months ago along w/ the coconut deserts. It will go down now…and those 2-3 lbs are about half gone…I am doing it slowly, since I don’t want to cut calories. Tried 1,200 a day diet and just didn’t stick to it, too low.

michael
michael
2 years 5 months ago

Cacao powder? Does Cacao powder have the same properties and effects as chocolate? I know it is missing the cacao butter.

BFBVince
2 years 5 months ago

I always wonder this too it never seems substantial enough

Aziz
Aziz
2 years 5 months ago

Michael, I have the same concerns.
I am wondering about taking the real (minimally processed) stuff: Raw Certified Organic Cacao Powder (I have settled on Healthworks, I like the taste over Navitas). I am now using 3 tbsp (4-5 days a week), 2 in the morning with my coffee, and 1 in the afternoon (with my coconut milk and whey protein), and only on the days I workout.
I wonder if I might be taking a little too much.

michael
michael
2 years 5 months ago

I drink de-caf, and generally have gotten bored with coffee.

So my coffee is a home-made cappuccino (de-caf), with a coffee spoon of cacao powder, 5 dashes of turmeric, a dash of pepper.

Keeps it interesting and gets some good supplements too.

My wife hates the taste.

Aziz
Aziz
2 years 5 months ago

Hey, Michael, the new cluster of pimples on my face (never had anything like this) is a sign for me to dial down the dosage. I am going to take a break, then go back to one tbsp 5 days a week. Thanks!

Primal_alex
2 years 5 months ago

These are the reasons why I make my own chocolate at home.
Just high quality pure cocoa butter + unsweetened cocoa powder = 100% dark chocolate, but beats most 80-85% chocolates around.

Catherine
Catherine
2 years 5 months ago

I assume you just melt the two together – what percentage of cocoa butter to cacoa powder do you use? I might have to try this 🙂

Primal_alex
2 years 5 months ago

I work with a scale: 200 grams of cocoa butter for 100 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Sometimes I add, either:
– 50 grams of maple syrup, or
– 25 grams of maple syrup and 25 grams of vanilla molasse
I get a fantastic 85% dark chocolate without HFCS, soy lecithin or hydrogenated oils from unspecified vegetables.

Adding more maple syrup (or anything liquid, I tried orange juice once) is not good, the risk is that the mix becomes uneven or doesn’t become solid at all and stays creamy, unless that’s what you are looking for of course.

Natalie
Natalie
2 years 5 months ago

Where do you buy your high quality pure cocoa butter? what brand?
I make some “chocolate” mixing coconut oil and cocoa powder, then letting it set for a few minutes in the freezer.

Primal_alex
2 years 5 months ago

Chocolate with coconut oil is very good, too. Unfortunately it tends to stay creamy, so you can’t make a chocolate bar (but it is excellent for toppings).

I live in Switzerland and I change sources often, so I wouldn’t know what to recommend. Good industrial butter and powder that you may find overthere are those from Barry Callebaut.

Natalie
Natalie
2 years 5 months ago

Lucky you! You live in chocolate paradise!
Regarding the creamy texture, that’s why I put it in the freezer (a thin layer) for a few minutes, until it starts to solidify, and eat it right away. I’ll look for Barry Callebaut products. Thanks.

Kate
Kate
2 years 5 months ago

If you mix melted coconut oil and cocoa powder with some frozen shredded coconut and/or frozen pecan or walnut pieces it solidifies almost instantly. I make a single (small) serving in less than a minute and eat it with a spoon … like I’m doing right now. I used to add a bit of vanilla and Swerve but don’t bother with it anymore. Yum!

2Rae
2Rae
2 years 5 months ago

I like the mood improvement. Some mornings are just too “dark” for me so a little square of really bitter chocolate does the trick. I was thinking of making a change to a cup of some 100% powder mixed with coconut oil, coconut milk and butter for a morning drink instead of coffee. Sounds good, maybe it will be good.

George
George
2 years 5 months ago

Great information. I eat one 88% square most mornings (sometimes two on the weekend … is it the weekend yet LOL), Endangered Species brand. Disappointing they did not make the slave-free list.

Clare
Clare
2 years 5 months ago
Re migraines – migraines can be triggered by almost anything. Despite years of research, there’s not much that can be said about what causes them (blood vessel constriction, chemical imbalance etc). It basically depends what happens to be the trigger on any given day; what tips the balance between a good day, and a day hiding under the duvet. On some days I can eat 2 satsumas and nothing happens. On others, even the smell of orange triggers a migraine. Just an accumulation of things, and on that day, that’s what it was. I did find once that if I… Read more »
Rebecca
2 years 5 months ago

Thanks for this write up! A great read summing up and clearing up relevant issues. I shall continue to enjoy my few squares of dark chocolate a day.

Tracy
Tracy
2 years 5 months ago

Hotel Chocolat (in the UK) do dark choc up to 100% and milk choc with less sugar. It’s my 20% and I feel NO guilt at consuming it in moderation, especially when my only other sugar intake is a bit of honey here and there and occasional fruit.

balor123
balor123
2 years 5 months ago

I had a habit of eating Lindt 85% for a long time. I ate about 2 squares a day. This stuff will stain your teeth like crazy. It’ll come off with a few minutes of brushing with a whitening toothpaste (which I don’t use regularly) or at a dental cleaning but it also costs you some enamel. Its slow but adds up over time.

meg
2 years 5 months ago

Great article and highly informative! Thank you for this 🙂

Walt Lewis
2 years 5 months ago
As someone who makes had crafted, small batch, artisan made Mexican style chocolate I feel I must speak up! People throw around the term “dark chocolate” without knowing what they are talking about. According to chocolate industry standards, dark chocolate is simply chocolate containing no milk solids. One of the chocolates I make at Chiammaya Custom Crafted Chocolate is more than 65% sugar yet it is still dark chocolate. ALL of my chocolate is made with only four ingredients, organic cacao beans from south and Central America, organic cinnamon, almonds and sugar. I make four blends 32% cacao, 42% cacao… Read more »
Chris
Chris
2 years 5 months ago

I enjoy dark chocolate but I don’t eat it very often. I think that for me, chocolate is unique in that it is the only food I can think of where the more bitter it is, the more I like it. Most foods I can’t stand if there is even a hint of bitterness. I’ve always wondered if this is an indicator of a broken carb metabolism.

Doreen Pendgracs
2 years 5 months ago

Chocolate is definitely a natural “love drug.” I’ve interviewed several chocolate makers who equate themselves to drug dealers, as they make people feel good with their delicious products. Works for me!

Lauren
2 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the great article Mark! It’s always good to have a reminder that dark chocolate is CANDY after all. Around the holidays I love to make raw truffles with cacao powder, cacao butter, hazelnuts and dates. Yum!! Other times of the year I try to buy my chocolate in individually wrapped squares to keep my ‘chocolate monster’ under control 🙂

Doreen Pendgracs
2 years 5 months ago

I can’t agree with your closing comment that “dark chocolate is ultimately candy.” I think that if one sources chocolate bars made of pure, dark chocolate of at least 70% cocoa and preferably higher, you are indeed eating a healthy food if consumed in moderation. I always tell people to read the labels on their chocolate. If sugar is the first ingredient, put it down! If the bar contains only cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and a small amount of organic cane sugar, I think you’re doing your mind and body a favour by consuming a small amount daily.

Kate
Kate
2 years 5 months ago

May I recommend… Vivani 92% cocoa Peruvian. It’s the best.

Ashley
Ashley
2 years 5 months ago

I JUST sat down to enjoy a square while checking your blog for the daily post….HA! What are the odds.

Laura
Laura
2 years 5 months ago

Dark chocolate gives me heart palpitations. I have to be very careful how much I eat or else I’ll have palpitations for days. Not fun and definitely not worth it.

Michelle
Michelle
2 years 5 months ago

I have the same problem. A few small pieces and my heart is racing like mad, I’m very shaky and feel terrible!

Beverly Meyer
2 years 5 months ago

Methylxanthines! That’s the key word missing here. Chocolate, caffeine and cola all contain this stimulating substance which is cleared by liver enzyme C-P450. I have quite a few clients who muscle-test weak on the xanthine family.
If one is weak, they all are. Try staying of chocolate, caffiene and colas for a month then adding back slowly. If headaches occur or other new or old signs, it’s the xanthines.

Mar
Mar
2 years 5 months ago
According to migraines triggered by chocolate – I used to have very bad migranes, which were lasting for about 3 days, painkillers weren’t working or couldn’t help because of vomiting just after taking it. I’ve noticed the coincidence of eating yellow cheese and my episodes of migrane, so I quit eating it. I also quit eating chocolate, because of its “bad fame”. But still, I was having my migranes at least one a month. I’ve been Primal now for about 4 months. During this period of time I had one episode of mild headache (I didn’t have to take any… Read more »
Joelwlcx
Joelwlcx
2 years 5 months ago

Mark forgot one detail regarding the “amphetamine-like chemical” phenylethylamine: it’s quickly metabolized by monoamine oxidase, hence monoamine oxidase inhibitors. So, the small amount of phenylethylamine in chocolate seems to be benign.

Morgan
Morgan
2 years 4 months ago

I think he did mention that.

Wildrose
Wildrose
2 years 5 months ago

Lately I’ve been eating Giddy Yo-Yo… it’s raw, undutched and I think from Ecuador so definitely slave free. The slavery part absolutely disgusts me. I wish I knew where Lindt sources their cocoa from.

Storm
Storm
2 years 5 months ago

I only allow myself a dark chocalate treat after a sprint session or heavy workout – this is to simulate “climbing and tree to get the honey” type scenario. If I didnt work out hard, I didnt get the chocolate.

Susan
Susan
2 years 5 months ago
Just checked on my bar of Endangered Species chocolate (which I wasn’t even thinking about reading until I clicked on the article, thanks, Mark)… ES chocolate is Rainforest Certified, which includes the following (from the rainforest-alliance dot org page): “Additionally, the SAN [Sustainable Agriculture Network] standards encompass a range of worker protection issues identified by the International Labour Organization, including the right to organize; the right to a safe, clean working environment; the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage; the right to dignified housing (including potable water); access to medical care for workers and their families;… Read more »
Christie
Christie
2 years 5 months ago

Does this apply to Crio Bru? I love to drink that with coconut milk, especially when I need a pick-me-up in the wee hours of a long night shift…

Marshall
Marshall
2 years 5 months ago

Went to look at today’s post while having a lil snack I made. Ironically it was a paleo fudge I made. Cacao powder, walnuts, coconut manna, shredded coconut, a touch of honey, and sea salt. I blended it all in a food processor and let it set in the freezer. It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.

Ginger
Ginger
2 years 5 months ago

After years of battling adult acne I finally figured out it was chocolate causing it. While thrilled to have an easy way to clear skin, I’m sad one of my favorite foods is the culprit. And it’s definitely chocolate, not the sugar, dairy, soy or anything else. I was only eating very dark, organic, soy free chocolate, and even experimented with raw cacao powder mixed with coconut milk so I could be sure it wasn’t sugar or dairy causing the breakouts. But no, it’s the chocolate, sad but true.

Joanna
Joanna
1 year 11 months ago
Hey! Great to see your comment. Im 25 and Ive had acne since 13. Im paleo now (no grains/legumes/soy/dairy)… meat/fruit/veg/nuts/seeds/healthy oils/coffee in moderation(1-2 cups a day) 85-90%cocoa bars. Only “bad” thigns I eat are almond butter (Barney Butter brand) which contains some sugar and palm oil (I know! Trying to go to the kind without sugar!) and 85-90% soy/dairy free DARK chocolate like Green and Blacks or Lindth. Occassionally mix 100% Hershey cocoa powder in smoothies. Considering trying the EXACT same experiment as you though! Was going to buy cacoa nibs and see if those gave me acne. For today… Read more »
Storm
Storm
2 years 5 months ago
I eat Lindt chocolate, and thankfully, they seem to have taken many more measures upon themselves beyond than the “minimum” to conform to the fair trade legislation (many other companies seem to be finding loopholes so they can get the “fair trade” stamp on their slave created chocolate bars) – this may explain why Lindt chocolate costs more, however the quality in much higher as well – its like buying cage eggs versus free range – do you want to spend a bit more, or do you want to die ? The fact that it is more expensive regulates my… Read more »
leighton phillips
leighton phillips
2 years 5 months ago

Nicely written Mark….couodnt agree more with your points….to agree on the mycotoxin harp from Mr Ausprey 🙂

Keep up the great posts

Leighton

Laxmi
2 years 5 months ago

Nice details on chocolate. But Chocolates are healthy too if taken in limit and pure. then it will act as natural healthy remedy.

Camille
2 years 5 months ago

I was nomming on dark chocolate while reading this article. Mine is only 65% and now I’m feeling conflicted about the child labor and the health un-benefits of it.

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