Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent testing group ConsumerLab.com, White Plains, New York.
Recent testing has revealed that some dark chocolates and cocoa powders contain troubling levels of dangerous heavy metals including…
Cadmium: Dark chocolate is a leading source of dietary cadmium—the tree that produces cocoa beans sucks up cadmium from the surrounding soil. Cadmium—a carcinogen—can cause kidney damage and weakened bones. If consumed only occasionally, the cadmium in most dark chocolate and cocoa powders isn’t a major concern, but cadmium levels vary dramatically from product to product.
Lead can be found in dark chocolate and cocoa powder but usually in concentrations too low to cause problems for most adults, though it could be a consideration for children and pregnant women.
Don’t throw out your chocolate yet. Multiple studies have identified a link between the antioxidant flavanols found in cocoa beans and improved cardiovascular and cognitive health. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this year that it will allow high-flavanol cocoa-powder makers to cite these cardio benefits on packaging and in advertising. Caution: Concentrations of flavanols in dark chocolate and cocoa powders vary dramatically from product to product. To select a dark chocolate or cocoa powder with high flavanol content…
Avoid products featuring the terms “alkalized,” “Dutched” and/or “Dutch processed” on the packaging. The process to reduce bitterness also dramatically reduces flavanol content.
Choose 72% or higher cocoa/cacao content. Products with cocoa percentages below this level almost inevitably have a low flavanol content…though a high percentage does not guarantee high flavanol content.
The following products provide especially high levels of flavanols but very low levels of heavy metals…
Sweetened dark chocolate: Ghirar-delli Intense Dark 72% Cocoa Dark Chocolate.
Unsweetened dark chocolate: Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate Absolute Black 100% Cocoa.
Cocoa powder: Target’s Good & Gather Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 100% Cocoa.
Cocoa powder supplement: CocoaVia Cardio Health Powder—this contains by far the highest flavanol content among the 40 products tested.
Products best avoided include: Alter Eco Deep Dark Blackout, a dark chocolate found to have high levels of cadmium…and Hershey Cocoa Special Dark, which had high cadmium levels and hardly any flavanols.