Pretty much straight after Christmas, the shops start filling their shelves with Easter goodies – usually starting with hot cross buns, but the chocolate easter eggs & rabbits are never far behind.
While I prefer to avoid those that are filled with sugar & soy lecithin, or the brands that are not Fair Trade &/or support child slavery, I’m certainly not immune to the temptation of the cacaophany (see what I did there ;-)) of cocoa-based offerings.
However, I was reading a report recently which showed that many brands of chocolate contain heavy metals like lead & cadmium. Of 70 products tested in an independent laboratory, 45 of them had levels of lead &/or cadmium at levels higher than allowed under Californian law (Prop 65), including some organic brands (brands that are available not only in the US, but here in Australia & other countries). Although heavy metal contamination of soil is not uncommon these days, there is no known safe level of lead for children or pregnant women. Some of the health effects of lead toxicity include:
- neurological damage, sometimes irreversible
- lowered IQ
- kidney damage
- developmental delays, both psychological & physical, including ADHD that can persist into adulthood
- decreased blood haemoglobin levels, which reduces the oxygenation of blood
- increased risk of hypertension
- interferes with Vitamin D, which affects multiple processes including cell maturation & skeletal growth
- abdominal pain
- impaired fertility
The other metal of concern is cadmium, a known human carcinogen, which is also correlated with:
- kidney dysfunction
- gut irritation – nausea, vomiting, salivation, abdominal pain & cramping, diarrhoea
- decreased bone density
- endocrine disruption
- chromosomal damage
Although eating a bit of chocolate is unlikely to result in the worst outcomes of chronic lead exposure – coma & death – it is important to reduce over-all exposure, especially for children. This is why it is so important to have ‘truth on labels’. Good health comes from making informed choices. Although lead & cadmium exposure can happen at any point, from “bean to bar“, I find it interesting that with the products tested, there were different results (some passed, some didn’t) from different products made by the same brands, which would presumably use the same source of cocoa for their products & use the same processing facilities. That being said, there are some brilliant health benefits to eating small amounts of quality chocolate & there are obviously some reputable sources of chocolate available. Part of my mission is to seek out & promote with those companies who hold your health at the core of everything they do.
Rather than panicking about “heavy metal chocolate” this Easter, here are some alternatives:
Make Your Own
Making your own chocolate is rewarding & super-easy (especially if you have a Thermomix or similar)! You could either do some sneaky chocolate making “Easter bunny style” while the kids are at school or sleeping, or you could get them involved in the process of making goodies for friends & family. I have some great childhood memories of helping my Mum to make chocolates as gifts for Easter & Christmas!
As well as traditional molded chocolate & eggs, there are plenty of ways to show your creative flair – think chocolate bark with different combinations of nuts, seeds & dried fruits….bliss balls made with raw cacao & medjool dates then shaped like eggs & rolled in coconut or finely chopped nuts (DIY Ferrero Rochers!)….Rocky Road with macadamias & home made marshmallows.
One of my favourite recipes is Jo Whitton’s Dairy-free raw chocolate on her Quirky Cooking blog. To make it, you’ll need:
- 200g Raw cacao butter (you can use coconut oil for a more budget-friendly option, or a combo of the two, but the chocolates must then be stored in the fridge so they don’t melt)
- 50-60g Raw cacao
- 100g Raw honey, pure maple syrup or rice malt syrup
- Vanilla bean paste or natural extract
- Fine sea salt
You can find the instructions here.
There’s also a fantastic special from Changing Habits available which you can use to make your chocolates, or give it as is as a gift! Treat yourself to the Ultimate Chocolate Pack this Easter and receive FREE Changing Habits Recipe Book and Stainless Steel Measuring Cups! $131.32 worth of Changing Habits products for only $67.70. Offer only available until 5 pm Thursday 13 April, 2017. All the ingredients you need to make your own healthy, delicious chocolate!
As an alternative to solid chocolate, give a gift that can be enjoyed right through the cooler months, long after Easter has passed. Perfect for those wanting or needing to avoid sugar such as diabetics, there’s now a superfood hot chocolate powder available that combines the well-known benefits of chocolate with hormone-balancing maca & immune-boosting reishi mushrooms.
After Midnight Dark is organic, non-GMO & low-GI/low carb as it’s sweetened with xylitol.
Another great chocolatey drink option is the Changing Habits Cacao Quick Hunger Fix. High protein, low GI and full of essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, copper & dietary fibre. It’s also Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Grain Free & Vegan. You can read more about the ingredients & buy it here.
Both powders are also great to use when making other snacks like bliss balls, chia puddings, raw slices, biscuits, etc or mixed into smoothies. In my experience, coconut milk or coconut cream make the best tasting chocolate drinks & coconut water is fabulous in smoothies, but you can use any liquid you prefer .
Cacao doesn’t only have benefits when consumed. Having a higher antioxidant capacity than green tea, black tea, or red wine, raw cacao helps to prevent against free radical damage in the skin & has UV protectant qualities when used topically. It also helps protect collagen in the skin & increases blood flow, giving skin a brighter, more youthful appearance. Skin hydration & elasticity improves & your skin loses that dry, scaly look.
One skin product I LOVE that contains cacao is the Zk’in Brightening & Hydrating Masque. I remember the first time I tried it. I’d just used their Clarifying Exfoliator which has coffee grounds in it & although I don’t like to drink coffee, the combination of the coffee aroma with the mandarin essential oil was DIVINE! I was already in Heaven from the smell of that when I opened the Masque. O…M…G! It was like liquid chocolate covering my fingers. I smoothed the silky, chocolately gel with soothing aloe vera & hydrating Tasmanian seaweed extract across my face & just inhaled deeply for 10 minutes. After rinsing it off with water, my skin was deliciously soft & smooth. I think it would make a gorgeous Easter gift either on it’s own, as part of a smaller gift set with the Exfoliator & brilliant Line Smoothing Serum, or the amazing ‘Complete Pack For Her‘.
Here’s a video so you can see the chocolately goodness for yourself:
So as you can see, there are many options for a healthier Easter, free of heavy metals & sugar comas. I’d love you to share this post so we can get this information out to as many people as possible & feel free to comment below if you have any questions or have tried any of these products yourself. I love to hear feedback so I can keep providing you with value & bringing you information that positively impacts you & your family.