Could Your Body Be Suffering from a Chocolate Shortage?

Warm Up to Hot Cocoa for Improved Heart Health

In recent months, concerns over a cocoa shortage have made headlines. Production of cocoa out of Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa took a hit in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, demand for chocolatey concoctions continues to grow like gangbusters in Asia.

The price of raw cocoa beans has increased more than 60% since 2012. And unfortunately for chocoholics, cocoa prices may have much further to rise.

Given current trends, the global chocolate deficit is projected to hit 1 million metric tons annually by 2020 and 2 million metric tons by 2030, according to Bloomberg. Of course, forecasts for commodity markets that go that far out should be taken with a grain of salt. Or a grain of sugar, if you prefer, in the case of cocoa. Higher prices for any commodity incentivize people to produce more of it. Over time, markets prevent potential shortages from happening… when markets are allowed to work.

In the interim, you may notice that chocolate products become more expensive. Or that they degrade in content and quality. Hershey is reportedly considering reducing the cocoa content in some of its famous chocolate bars. Replacing cocoa with milk, sugar, or other fillers would negate much of the health benefits found in chocolate.

Chocolate Is Good for You – Who Knew?

Among the Kuna Indians of Panama, high blood pressure (which afflicts about one in three American adults) is virtually non-existent, even in old-age. They are known to drink cocoa daily, and scientists have recently established that there is more than an anecdotal link between cocoa and heart health. Cocoa contains chemicals called flavanols that improve blood circulation. Because cocoa also helps improve circulation to the brain, it can reduce the chances of a stroke and may even help prevent memory loss.spirin (and without the side effects) in helping to prevent blood clotting.

The Guardian (October 27, 2014) “A component of chocolate has been found to reverse age-related memory loss in healthy adults aged 50-69. The rejuvenating effect can be traced to increased blood flow in a specific region of the brain,”

Chocolate Found to Cut Stroke Risk

Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that enjoying just two chocolate bars per week can meaningfully reduce your risk of stroke.

Cocoa content varies widely in chocolate bars. Milk chocolate tends to have the lowest cocoa content, often less than 25%. Dark chocolate may contain 50% or more cocoa solids – this is the best chocolate from a health standpoint.

“70% Cocoa” bar or Ghirardelli’s “72% Cacao” bar for a powerful cocoa infusion. If the taste is too bitter, try melting down chunks of the chocolate and dipping bananas, apple slices, strawberries, or other fruit in the dark goodness for a more palatable, super-healthy treat.

Hot Cocoa vs. “Hot Chocolate”

There’s nothing more soothing on a cold winter day than a steaming-hot beverage. Green tea offers great antioxidant health benefits, but tea isn’t the only healthy option. Hot cocoa will not only hit the spot; it can also help prevent heart disease and stroke.

Unfortunately, most of what passes as “hot chocolate” in the U.S. contains very little (if any) of the pure, antioxidant-rich cocoa that can help improve cardiovascular health. Instead, popular hot chocolate mixes are loaded mostly with sweeteners and artificial ingredients.

How to Get Healthy Chocolate – Not the Processed Junk

You can find hot chocolate mixes that contain significant quantities of real cocoa at some high-end grocers and specialty shops. Lake Champlain’s Old World Hot Chocolate consists of more than 50% pure cocoa. You can order from the Vermont-based company directly (800-465- 5909; www.lakechamplainchocolates.com).

You can also make your own hot chocolate using regular cocoa powder as the main ingredient. Hershey’s cocoa powder will do, although you can opt for more expensive brands, including those that are made with “organic” cocoa, at health-food stores.

A simple-but-effective hot chocolate recipe: Add a generous portion of pure cocoa powder to any conventional hot chocolate mix. The result will be a chocolate that should still be sufficiently sweet and smooth, but that will be much healthier due to its higher cocoa content.

Creative Ways to Give Yourself a Cocoa Boost

There are hundreds of other potential uses for cocoa powder. You can sprinkle it on desserts for added color and flavor, for example. Or you can stir it in to your regular morning coffee to give yourself an extra boost.

Cocoa keeps well for several years when stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. Therefore, you should consider adding cocoa to your long-term emergency food reserves. If raw cocoa prices soar in the years ahead, as many analysts predict, then stocking cocoa now makes good financial sense.


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