There are alot of “dark gourmet chocolate” start-up companies entering the wellness industry over the last year. The claim is that the product is “healthy”. We’ve seen the commercials, ads and the media feature it. So I decided to look in to this myself from a health and nutrition perspective.
I am personally not a chocolate eater so I’ve never had any interest except that I find it intriguing from a marketing perspective. How can a â€œchocolate productâ€ be marketed as healthy?
I selected one of the Direct Selling â€œhealthy gourmet chocolateâ€ companies and reviewed its marketing materials and ingredients.
Ingredients & Marketing
The main source of the product is dark chocolate, with each of the packaged varieties having added nutritional elements including sweeteners, berry powders, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and omegas.
While the story of the â€œhealthy chocolateâ€ makes for great marketing and lends itself to a greater interest from the poor dietary habits of people today; after further reading it appears this requires further investigation (even more than what I will provide here). Besides the antioxidant story the main selling feature in the product is the natural sweetener called agave.
The dark gourmet chocolate product I reviewed lists these key selling features:
- It is diabetic friendly due to the sweetener from agave, which comes from a cactus like plant. The literature claims the agave is very safe.
- The product itself has a low glycemic index and will not cause increases in blood sugar, and that the antioxidants found in this gourmet chocolate, helps promote cardiovascular health.
- The literature says that it may help with weight loss as it provides natural energy and increases your sense of well-being.
Agave Sweetener – what is it?
The Agave syrup found in â€œhealthy chocolateâ€ was originally used to make tequila. When Agave syrup ferments it turns to tequila. The enzymes activity must be stopped so that the syrup will not turn into tequila for use in healthy chocolate.
Agave Syrup is advertised as low glycemic and marketed safe for diabetics. According to my reading, it is true that agave itself is low glycemic but we have to consider why. The reason is due to the unusually high concentration of fructose (90%) compared to the small amount of glucose (10%).
Even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, there are numerous problems associated with the consumption of fructose in such high concentrations, the same as found in other sweeteners.
High Amounts of Fructose
High amounts of concentrated fructose may cause health problems ranging from mineral depletion, to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and it even causes miscarriages in pregnant women.
Whole foods such as fruits contain a much smaller amount of fructose compared to sucrose and glucose, as well as a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, enzymes and other nutrients. These are the nutritional needs of the body. Concentrated sweeteners from food sources such as the agave plant contain no fiber and have much greater concentrations of simple sugars than are found in fresh foods.
Fructose also appears to interfere with copper metabolism. This causes collagen and elastin being unable to form. Collagen and elastin are connective tissue which essentially hold the body together. A deficiency in copper can also lead to bone fragility, anemia, defects of the arteries and bone, infertility, high cholesterol levels, heart attacks and ironically enough an inability to control blood sugar levels.
Research suggests that fructose actually promotes disease more readily than glucose. This is because glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body, and fructose must be metabolized by the liver.
Tests on animals show that the livers of animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrohosis of the liver. This is similar to the livers of alcoholics.
Very few agave studies have been documented, and most involved rats. There have been no clinical studies done on its safety for diabetics.
Fructose – Blood Glucose, Leptin
It is important to understand that the glucose in other sugars are converted to blood glucose, fructose is a relatively unregulated source of fuel that your liver converts to fat and cholesterol.
A significant danger here is that fructose does not stimulate your insulin secretion or enhance leptin production, which is involved in appetite regulation.
Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in regulating how much food you eat, as well as your body weight, dietary fructose can also contribute to increased food intake and weight gain.
Fructose is one type of sugar youâ€™ll definitely want to avoid, no matter what the source is. Therefore, “healthy chocolate” does not have any weight loss benefits.
We now understand that chocolate has no weight loss benefits, we also know that it provides a feeling of well being through a sense of euphoria. The coca solids in dark chocolate contain alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain.
My recommendation is that if you are going to eat this gourmet chocolate it would be better than eating chocolate bars (albeit more expensive). I would not suggest consuming alot of it on a regular basis and don’t expect it will offer you any real medicinal benefits.
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about dark gourmet chocolate.
Be sure to read Part II on Healthy Chocolate at Dark Gourmet Chocolate â€“ Maybe not so Healthy?