Chocolate Woes 🍫
I hope you had a merry Christmas! I scrapped the newsletter I had planned so I could discuss the recent Consumer Reports findings on chocolate and heavy metals. I am getting an abundance of panicky DM’s and emails from people in my community, so let’s talk it out.
First of all, this is NOT new news. Sorry to say, but heavy metals like lead and cadmium have been in cacao and chocolate for a looooong time and this information has been out there for many years. I would not say I am the first to unearth anything in nutrition, and even I posted about heavy metals in chocolate years ago. Check out this post on my website.
From the National Confectioners Association: Cadmium can be found in cocoa and chocolate due to its presence in soils, either through natural or man-made sources, where cocoa is cultivated and harvested in the tropics. Cocoa plants take up cadmium from soils via their roots and deposit it in the nibs (center) of cocoa beans. Reducing cadmium levels without compromising taste characteristics will require blending low and high cadmium beans in the short-term, and changes to soil composition or cocoa genetics over time, especially in the Latin America and Caribbean regions where fine flavored cocoa is grown and cadmium levels in soils tend to be higher.
In contrast, lead is not taken up through the roots of cocoa plants. Instead, lead from many sources including soil, dust, and deposition from power plants around the world, adheres to the outer shells of cocoa beans after they are extracted from the pods. The beans are naturally coated with a sticky cacao pulp known as “baba” or “mucilage” which allows lead to cling to the beans while they are being fermented and dried in the open in the tropical countries where they are grown. The experts found that, where feasible, minimizing soil contact and the potential for aerial deposition at these stages of the harvesting process, and optimizing contaminant removal during subsequent bean cleaning, roasting, and shell removal (as many chocolate manufacturers already do), should help reduce lead levels in finished products.
If you live in California, products are labeled with a “Prop 65 warning” if they contain the presence of heavy metals.
So what do you do? Like everything else, consume chocolate and cacao products in moderation. I personally would not eat chocolate or cacao products during pregnancy or if you are trying to get pregnant unless you know that the products have been tested for heavy metals and the amounts are negligible. I would not give more than 1 ounce of chocolate to children on a daily basis. And I personally would not eat more than an ounce of chocolate every day. I had someone on Instagram tell me she was drinking a homemade hot cacao beverage every day for a while and then stopped and she started to feel a lot better.
There are hundreds of brands of chocolate and cacao products on the market and only a few dozen have been tested. If you have not seen your favorite brand on any published list, email them and ask for a Heavy Metal Testing Certificate of Analysis.
There are brands that contain lower amounts of heavy metals including:
Santa Barbara Chocolate (best choice)
Terrasoul (most recent testing shows levels higher than a few years ago)