Is it Time to Break Up with Chocolate? (Plus Chocolate-Free Recipes Inside!)

Have you seen the bad news? A Consumer Reports is popping up all over social media that exposes heavy metal contamination (specifically lead and cadmium) in tons of popular chocolate brands.

How are these heavy metals ending up in our chocolates? They’re coming from the soil where the cacao plants are grown. The cacao shells themselves have the highest concentrations, which only increase after the cacao fruit is picked and laid on the soil to age. So in a nutshell, the soil itself is the problem.

If you’re feeling devastated, I (Jo) am right there with you! I’m a total chocoholic, so this is heartbreaking for me. I’ve stopped eating chocolate since the report came out. The worst part is, even the few stevia-sweetened chocolates are a problem.

And with Valentine’s Day coming up quickly, I was feeling even more disappointed. Who doesn’t love receiving a nice box or bar of chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift?

With that said, if you’re a chocoholic like me, there are still ways to navigate and reduce your exposure to those toxic heavy metals. I’m also including a round-up of a few of my favorite chocolate-free sweets that you can swap in for your V-Day celebrations this year.

Here’s how chocolate lovers can indulge mindfully:

  1. First of all, it isn’t necessary to completely stop eating chocolate—but it is important to minimize it. For example, if you eat chocolate every day, try to reduce your snacking. Ideally stick to no more than once per week, and no more than one ounce per serving.
  2. As far as we know, all brands have some degree of contamination. The biggest offenders are Theo Organic Pure Dark 70% and 85%, Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate, Lily’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolove, and Green and Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate. Opting for brands that tested lower in both lead and cadmium like Ghiradelli and Taza will be helpful for decreasing health risks.
  3. You can also try switching between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. There are some great dairy-free milk chocolates out there, like Taza’s Almond Milk Chocolate, Rad Chocolate’s Organic Vegan Milk Chocolate, and Charm School Chocolate’s Coconut Milk Chocolate. The extra fats in milk chocolate help dilute the heavy metals, so it may be a good idea to add some of the “lighter stuff” into your rotation.
  4. And finally, consider swapping out that chocolate for a chocolate-free treat! Having some go-to recipes on hand will be super helpful when you’re craving something sweet. Try making one of these chocolate-free recipes this Valentine’s Day for you and your loved ones.

The good news is, now that we know better, we can do better. As consumers, we can write to our favorite chocolate brands and ask them how they are going to move forward given this new information.

Let’s put pressure on these companies to start testing their chocolates so we can ensure their safety!

Here are my favorite chocolate-free recipes for Valentine’s Day:

Raspberry Cheesecake Bites: These cheesecake bites were developed specifically for V-Day, and they tick all the boxes. Raspberries give just the right amount of acidity and sweetness to the silky cashew-based filling, making this a truly drool-worthy dessert. *Make sure you swap carob for the cacao in the crust! This isn’t a chocolate-focused recipe, so it’ll be just as delicious!

Cashew Cupcakes with Fresh Raspberry Frosting (The Conscious Cleanse Cookbook, pg. 207): Perfect for your next celebration, these cupcakes are light, fluffy, and not too sweet. What makes them really unique is the cashew flour! Jo originally developed this recipe for her daughter’s birthday. She chose cashew flour because she’s found that a lot of people have almond allergies or sensitivities.

Carob Hazelnut Cheesecake: This decadent cheesecake recipe comes from our partner restaurant Zeal. This cheesecake is super easy to prepare, no baking required! It’s hands-down better than a hot date but just as good shared with the ones you love.

Zesty Lemon Balls (The Conscious Cleanse Cookbook, pg. 216): These tasty bites are the result of a challenge to make a lemon bar that’s vegan and grain-free. Featuring macadamia nuts, these make a protein-packed dessert that’s perfect for a picnic or snacking on at home.

Are there any chocolate-centered desserts that you’d like us to give a makeover? Let us know in the comments!

With chocolate-free kisses,

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