Is chocolate really bad for you?

Raw chocolate bars

Homemade raw chocolate bars.

For years marketing teams have been working hard to convince us that some forms of our favourite chocolate bars are actually good for us. This is usually done by suggesting that because a chocolate bar now comes in a 70%-cocoa form, the high cocoa count somehow cancels out all of the other nasties that come with it. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

Most of the chocolate you’ll find at the supermarket or servo is made from cocoa beans that are sourced incredibly cheaply from countries, like Africa, that have a nasty little insect called the Capra beetle. To ensure all of these insects are killed before the cocoa beans are sent to be turned into chocolate, the beans are sprayed heavily with methyl bromide gas. According to the United State’s EPA government site, ethyl bromide “is highly toxic. Studies in humans indicate that the lung may be severely injured by acute (short-term) inhalation of methyl bromide.” The site goes on to say that it can cause neurological effects in humans. Not nice at all. To make doubly sure that you aren’t going to end up with some extra crunch, in the form of beetle shell in your chocolate, the beans are then irradiated.

It doesn’t get any better from there. The beans then have the absolute bajeezus processed out of them. They are cooked, drenched in chemicals and mixed with copious amounts of sugar (just one serve of Cadbury chocolate contains 34% of your daily recommended sugar intake!). By the time the poor old cocoa bean gets to your mouth, it has been so abused that it lacks almost all of its former health benefits and now will actually damage your body.

It’s not all bad though. In its raw, un-bastardised form, cacao (its true name) is actually one of the most potent superfoods on the planet. It contains all of the essential trace minerals, like magnesium (which most Australians are hugely deficient in), that have been depleted from our soil through conventional farming practises. It is also very high in iron, has off-the-chart antioxidant levels and is jammed full of vitamin C.

Still not convinced? How about this: it contains phenylethylamine, which is a chemical that the brain creates when we fall in love (awww). Ever wondered why chocolate is the gift of lovers all around the world? Well now you know.

Raw chocolate is becoming increasingly easy to come by. My favourite brand, Pana Chocoloate, is made in Richmond, Melbourne, and I have seen it stocked at a few different places. If you are ever in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by their flagship store to try a piece of the white chocolate and raspberry cake. To. Die. For. The other brand I like is Loving Earth, who are also based in Melbourne. They have a big range and you can order their chocolate online.

Once you go raw, you won’t want to go back.


A raw vegan take on the Snickers bar

The finished product.

The finished product. Holy Batman, yum!

Here’s my conundrum: I am a card carrying member of the chocolate fan club but I sure as heck want to avoid the nasty side-affects I get from eating heavily processed, nutrient-deficient versions of chocolate. What to do?

The answer came to me a few months ago when I stumbled across This Rawsome Vegan Life, a blog, run by the beautiful Em, which is dedicated to the amazing world of raw vegan desserts. The first time I visited the blog, I lost hours clicking through (read: drooling over) Em’s creations. My mind was spinning with ideas!

Since then, I have attempted a few raw vegan treats with varying levels of success but yesterday I hit the jackpot. The chocolate jackpot. This Raw Paleo Snickers Bar was super easy to make and tasted phenomenal.

The only equipment needed is a food processor to whizz together all of the ingredients.

The ingredients (minus the Medjool dates, which are sitting just outside of the shot).

The ingredients (minus the Medjool dates, which are sitting just outside of the shot).

The recipe says you can use macadamias for the caramel layer but I chose cashews because I had some available. Macadamias would make the caramel really creamy though so I think I’ll use them next time.

Preparing the filling.

Preparing the caramel and base layers (the caramel is on the left).

Once the three main elements (the caramel and base layers, and the chocolate) were finished, I began assembling it all.

Tip: use a hot knife to cut through the slice.

Tip: use a hot knife to cut through the slice.

I had to stop midway through to conduct some quality control tests.

Quality Control Officer.

Laura: Quality Control Officer.

I think I could have made the portions a bit smaller to make the finished product last longer… Ha! Who am I kidding? It still would have disappeared just as quickly. I would have made up for the smaller sizes by eating twice as many portions. I’m only human after all.

Coated in chocolate and ready to go in the freezer.

Coated in chocolate and ready to go in the freezer.

Once the chocolate layer was on, I popped the bars in the freezer for an hour (#longesthourofmylife) and then they were ready to be eaten. And eat them I did. My gosh.

I’m still coming down from a raw Snickers-induced high.

The best bit? There is one more left for my morning tea tomorrow. Monday just got a whole lot more bearable.