I like chocolate. It isn’t my favorite sweet treat, but I do enjoy a bit of chocolate now and then. I prefer dark chocolate, especially somewhere around 70-75% cacao, since the bitter notes taste better to my palate. Plus, I can justify indulging a bit knowing that the higher cacao content means less overall sugar and a higher antioxidant profile. But even when I am indulging in a treat, I want it to be of the best quality with few or no harmful ingredients. That is why I am always on the hunt for soy-free chocolate.
- Soy contains high levels of phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that binds with minerals and prevents them from being assimilated during digestion. In other words, eating soy products can keep you from getting all the minerals you need from the food you eat; instead of a health food, soy can deplete your health.
- Soy contains trypsin inhibitors which can interfere with protein digestion and absorption. Trypsin inhibitors can prevent normal growth, so children are especially susceptible to soy’s dangers.
- Soy contains phytoestrogens which mimic the body’s natural hormones (especially estrogen) and disrupt their function. Disrupted hormone function can lead to problems with sexual development in children, infertility, breast cancer, and thyroid disfunction.
- While soy contains vitamin B12, it is not easily absorbed or utilized by the body and can increase the body’s need for B12 instead of satisfying its requirements.
- Soy increases the body’s need for vitamin D.
- The processing of soy denatures its proteins and can form highly carcinogenic compounds.
- MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is often formed during soy processing.
You may be surprised to hear that soy products are not the health food that many Americans believe them to be. After all, we have been told for years (decades?) that meatless diets rich in soy will keep us from all sorts of health problems. The truth is, though, that soy products were never meant to be a staple of any culture’s diet, and those cultures that include soy do so by preparing it in a traditional way that neutralizes its negative components (read more about that here). Not only is soy not healthful, it is harmful to many who have serious soy allergies, and it is ubiquitous in our overly-processed Standard American Diet. You’ll find soy flour in many store-bought breads, soybean oil in salad dressings and restaurant food, and soy lecithin in most chocolate-based candies, not to mention the soy sauce, tofu, and edamame-laced food that lines grocery store shelves. Add that to the fact that conventionally raised livestock and poultry are often fed soy-based products that are decidedly not part of their natural diets. Soy is everywhere.
Now, I’m not saying that I never eat anything with soy in it. I like gluten-free tamari, an occasional cup of miso soup, and maybe even some whole edamame now and then. I seek out and buy only GMO-free soy products (organic is really the only way to ensure this), and they are occasional entries into my soy-free eating habits. My problem is with the crazy overuse of soy products when studies show that its regular consumption can be very harmful to one’s overall health.
Now, this post is supposed to be about chocolate, right? Well, finding chocolate that doesn’t have any soy in it can be darn near impossible. Soy lecithin is often used in chocolate as an emulsifier, which keeps the cocoa and cocoa butter from separating and results in a creamier, more consistent texture. Sounds good, right? According to Kaayla Daniel, an expert on all things soy, “Soybean lecithin comes from sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a “degumming” process. It is a waste product containing solvents and pesticides and has a consistency ranging from a gummy fluid to a plastic solid.” It is also extracted using hexane (a colorless liquid that is a major constituent of gasoline) and bleached to make it lighter in color. Yikes! Do you really want that in your delicious chocolate? Even if I wasn’t aware of soy’s dangers, this description of lecithin is unappetizing and quite disgusting. But have no fear! It is possible to find excellent chocolate that is soy-free.
Believe it or not, there are several brands of chocolate that I have found in regular grocery stores as well as in health food stores and more health-minded grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that are made without any soy. Below are my picks for some of the best tasting soy-free chocolate around. I’ve included my favorite brand of chocolate chips (the only one, in fact, that I have ever seen that contained no soy lecithin), several chocolate bars, and two types of hot chocolate mix. You’ll notice that one of the bars and one of the hot chocolate mixes has some chili in it–I do like it spicy sometimes!
If nothing else, I hope this encourages you to begin reading labels and discovering what is in the food you are eating. A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying any chocolate that looked good; now I take great care to read the ingredients list to see what’s inside the wrapper. I probably put more products back on the shelf than I do in my shopping cart, but I feel good about what I am feeding myself and my family. May you enjoy some soy-free chocolate today! And please leave a comment below if you have a favorite soy-free chocolate that is not listed here.
Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Chips (found at Raley’s/Nob Hill Foods, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and small health food stores; this company also makes Mega Chunks)
Theo Chocolate (found at Whole Foods and Sprouts grocery stores)
Trader Joe’s Belgian Dark Chocolate (found at Trader Joe’s)
Equal Exchange Chocolates (purchased online from Tropical Traditions)
Silly Cow Farms Hot Chocolate (found at Raley’s/Nob Hill Foods and Whole Foods)
Lake Champlain Aztec Spicy Hot Chocolate (found at Whole Foods)
- Wikipedia: Lecithin
- Wikipedia: Hexane
- Soy Lecithin: From Sludge to Profit by Kaayla Daniel
- Soy Alert!