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Organic Chocolate

If you love chocolate, here is some heartwarming news for you. Now there is a better way to appease your sweet tooth and give back to the environment at the same time. The latest trend from the chocolate and cocoa industry points to the benefits of purchasing organic chocolate. Sinfully delicious? Organic chocolate is doing its part in turning this title into healthful deliciousness.
So, what is the difference between regular and organic chocolate? Organic chocolate maybe costlier than regular chocolate but here is why organic chocolate has become something of a novelty.

Cacao trees are shade trees (they grow best under the shade of other trees in the rainforest) that put out their best fruit under cool shade conditions. However, large plantations with commercial interests at heart may not always provide shade to each tree in the plantation. Cocoa plantations that cultivate the trees under direct sunlight face problems such as insects and leaf eating pests. To avoid the destruction of the cocoa fruit, large plantations resort to pesticides and fertilizers to protect their crop.

Organic chocolate comes from pesticide-free cocoa beans. To be labeled organic chocolate, the product needs to be certified under fair trade practices, which implies that the cocoa beans have been sourced from shade-grown trees and are free of any commercial pesticides. Fair trade practice allows farmers to cultivate the cocoa crop in small shaded plots, thus eliminating the need for fertilizers or pesticides. While this protects the cocoa crop from synthetic or chemical fertilizers and fungicides, it may sometimes result in complete destruction of the crop. The cocoa farmer producing the crop in these difficult conditions needs a fair price for his sustainable farming efforts. This is why organic chocolate tends to be pricier than regular chocolate.
The reason why organic chocolate is good for the cocoa bean and sugar farmers is that under the fair trade practice laws, they receive a fair price for their produce, which helps to improve the quality of life in cocoa-bean producing communities. Moreover, organic farming protects surrounding vegetation. Chemical-free farming supports clean water and soil in the surrounding areas. Buying organic also gives you peace of mind. The organic chocolate bars you love are toxin and chemical free. Most fair trade chocolate producers will label their product as ‘organic chocolate’ and specify the percentage of organic ingredients used in their products. In fact, some organic chocolate may also use other ingredients such as sugar and diary-produced organically. This may make the product more expensive; however, you get twice the benefits of dark chocolate without any compromise in taste. Without the ill-effects of chemical pesticides, it is likely that dark organic chocolate may possess a substantial amount of antioxidant benefits. Here are a few reasons to indulge your sweet tooth, and while you are at it, make sure you are consuming organic chocolate.

• Chocolate comes from the cacao or cocoa tree. Aptly titled ‘theo broma’ or ’food of the gods’ by Greeks, it was historically used during religious ceremonies as offerings to gods and high priests. Luckily, for us mortals, the scientific study behind the health benefits of chocolate has resulted in immense interest into this food. What sparked this interest in chocolates, especially dark chocolate, is the discovery of a sub-group of flavanoids called flavonols in dark chocolate. Flavanoids are antioxidants found in citrus fruits, tea, green tea, red wine, and so on. Flavonols in dark chocolate helps the human body to process nitric oxide. Thus, consuming moderate portions of dark chocolate relaxes the blood vessels and allows for regular blood circulation. A healthy blood circulation indicates healthy blood pressure levels.
• Flavonols in dark chocolate are good for your heart too. Studies reveal that the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate may help fight the risk of premature heart attack, especially among women over 40. Cardiovascular health is just one of the many benefits of dark chocolate.
• Theo bromine in chocolate may affect mental function. Do you notice how you reach out for chocolate in times of stress? Well, studies show that dark chocolate may regulate our mood and cognition. It may help us relax in times of stress and keep us alert in certain situations.
• Dark chocolate may also enable your body to regulate blood sugar levels minimizing the risk of diabetes. However, it is important to remember that only the consumption of dark chocolate ensures these health benefits. The darker or more bitter the chocolate, the better health benefits it is likely to provide. 
• Cocoa may also prevent inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or gastrointestinal complaints.
• Another health benefit of dark chocolate that has come to the fore in the last decade is its use in weight loss plans. With the benefits of antioxidants, dark chocolate may also help curb your sweet cravings. A chocolate diet may allow you to consume one square of chocolate per day. Appetite suppressant properties of dark chocolate may help obese people control their eating habits. However, it is important that you consult your doctor or dietician before embarking on any diet plan. Diet plans that focus on one food may not help all individuals. Any successful weight loss plan has to include a well-balanced diet along with regular exercise.
• Dental health experts have been worried about the ill effects of chocolate on children’s teeth. However, recent studies show that chocolate does not cause cavities. The refined flour or sugar in sweets and pastries causes tooth decay. Since dark chocolate is lower in sugar additives, it is less likely to cause tooth damage.
• Dark chocolate contains three different kinds of antioxidants: flavonols, catechins, and epicatechins. Studies reveal that these antioxidants may help fight cancer and retard the growth of tumors.

Organic chocolate is available in a wide variety of flavors and specialties include cookies, muffins, even drinking chocolate made with hundred percent organic chocolate. Can one use organic chocolate instead of baking chocolate chips or squares? Organic chocolate uses some of the same ingredients as regular chocolate. The only difference lies in organically sourced ingredients like milk, milk solids, sugar, flavors, and so on. Organic chocolate may use hormone-free organic milk, raw organic sugar, and even organically farmed vanilla for flavor. Therefore, you can be rest assured that you have a quality product. Organic chocolate can replace regular baking chocolate in cake and other baking needs. Similarly, you may also find organic chocolate products such as organic chocolate milk at your grocer’s or supermarket. Some organic chocolate products may be available in specialty stores such as organic or health stores. Nothing says special like organic chocolate gifts. Whether you are jazzing up a Christmas basket or handing out take home gifts at the end of a party or meal, organic chocolate will have your guests admiring your taste and choice. So go ahead and try organic chocolate guilt-free. You may even pretend that you are saving the environment one organic chocolate bar at a time.
Submitted on January 16, 2014