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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

When Chocolate is Not Chocolate: People presume that when a label says chocolate, that the contents contain the plant substance chocolate. Dr. Harlan Sparer reveals what's really there.

Jan 31, 2015 10:40AM ● By Dr. Harlan Sparer

People presume that when a label says chocolate, that the contents contain the plant substance, chocolate. However, the only requirement as a labeled product is that it has a flavor reminiscent of chocolate. Sometimes the tempting bar we see on the shelf has a percentage on the label with a picture of chocolate before it has been boiled several times and combined with caustic chemicals to make it come out of molds easily.

Many cheaper varieties have a food-like substance known as chocolate liquor as a flavoring agent. It is derived from the repeated roasting, grinding, fermenting and boiling of cacao beans, with the addition of fats, oils, caustic alkali and unsavory sweeteners. This is known as the Dutch process, or alkali processing. Usually, this substance is present in small quantities, sometimes with artificial chocolate flavoring to enhance it.

The phytochemicals (plant substances) that are valuable in chocolate include anandimides, serotonin uptake inhibitors and antioxidants. Anandimides make you feel blissful. Serotonin uptake inhibitors make you feel happy. Antioxidants prevent disease and autoimmune diseases. All are present in chocolate in great quantities before the repeated application of high heat and caustic alkaline substances, which are then removed. The heat damages 90 percent of these valuable beneficial nutrients, by conservative estimate.

The solution to this dilemma leaves us with one of two choices. The simplest solution is to purchase “raw” chocolate, which is made at temperatures nearing 108 degrees and no more. If these varieties don’t suit our palate, we can make it ourself. A popular local free class is given in Tempe monthly on this topic. The secret recipe consists of three cups of raw cacao butter, heated to 108 degrees in a double boiler, adding one cup of sweetener (with no water), and one tablespoon of dry vanilla (no water) ground by mortar and pestle. Two cups of raw cacao powder are stirred in. The raw chocolate is then allowed to cool until hardened. It is then heated and cooled, or tempered, several times. It can then be poured into molds, cooled, extracted and enjoyed.

Chocolate is a superfood in its raw form, but is sadly a junk food in its common form, because it is full of bad fats and sugar and essentially devoid of nutrients. In its raw form, it is tastier, more nutritious, and produces many positive and splendid effects. Raw chocolate, when made at home, is not prohibitively expensive and time-consuming and is quite fun. After eating it, it is hard to go back to the commercial variety, though.

For more information, contact Dr. Harlan Sparer, a DNFT chiropractor practicing in Tempe. He can be reached at 480-245-7894 or [email protected]. To learn about the chocolate class, visit or