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Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate
12/19/2006
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Our new chocolate offers rich flavor, abundant antioxidant power, and pure pleasure
By Craig Weatherby


There’s nothing quite like a cocoa farm… although “farm” is an odd term to describe dozens of small trees laden with vibrant red, yellow, or maroon seed pods, scattered in a sultry, sun-dappled shade forest that’s filled with chattering birds and gurgling streams.

When the grower splits a cocoa pod, his machete slice reveals a moist, bright-white, fleshy, fibrous interior that enfolds rows of fat seeds… and it releases a fresh, floral aroma, redolent with a chocolate scent of unexpected, intoxicating strength.

The experience brings home the fact that chocolate begins its sojourn toward sensuous perfection in a brightly colored fruit on the branch of a tropical tree.

Chocolates of rare quality
We love great chocolate, so we’re very pleased to announce the availability of Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate.  Each of our three varieties—Extra Dark, Extra Dark with Blueberries, and Extra Dark with Hazelnuts—is made in small batches using premium cocoa cultivars from Central and South America.

While many chocolate bars labeled “dark” contain only 50 to 60 percent cocoa solids, ours boast a stratospheric 80 percent cocoa solids for maximum flavor and preventive-health power.

All three varieties of Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate are Certified Organic and Kosher (Earth Kosher-DE):

Dark Chocolate

These unadorned bars are anything but plain or simple, presenting the complex, floral notes of premium primal cacao cultivars in their full glory.

Dark Chocolate w/ Wild Blueberries

Add the tart, frisky flavor and potent antioxidant power of wild blueberries to our cacao-rich bars and the inevitable smile will soon spread to your heart!  Features certified-organic Wild Blueberries.

Dark Chocolate w/ Hazelnuts

You’ll go nuts over this sensory marriage made in chocolate heaven. Features certified-organic Hazelnuts.

Combo Pack: Dark, Blueberry, Hazelnut

Can't decide? Our combination package contains four each of our Plain, Hazelnut and Wild Blueberry Organic Extra Dark Chocolate Bars (12 bars total).

Why chocolate?
Our mission is to bring you delicious foods of extraordinary health value and culinary quality. So how does chocolate—generally considered a candy—fit in?

Like tea, berries, and red wine, unprocessed cocoa and dark chocolates made from it are rich in potent polyphenol antioxidants. The polyphenols in cocoa—specifically, its flavon-3-ol antioxidant pigments—exert beneficial effects on key markers of cardiovascular (heart) health. In fact, the darkest chocolates offer more of these anti-aging antioxidants than other food tested to date.

In recent years, media headlines have highlighted a fast-growing body of research regarding the heart-health benefits of dark cocoa and chocolate. While none of this negates the fact chocolate is high in sugar and calories, these drawbacks are probably well outweighed by the preventive health properties of natural cocoa and extra dark chocolate made from it.

What do we mean by “natural” cocoa?  In its unprocessed state, cocoa powder is incredibly rich in potent, heart-healthy flavon-3-ol antioxidants.

However, most brands of cocoa are processed with chemical alkalizing agents to reduce its acidity, darken its color, and allow it to mix with water or milk more easily. Because the alkalinization process was invented in Holland, the resulting product is called “Dutch” cocoa.

Unfortunately, the counterproductive process of “dutching” also destroys a substantial portion of the antioxidant polyphenols that make cocoa powder—and any chocolate made from it—remarkably healthful.

Accordingly, our chocolate is made from natural, “un-Dutched” cocoa powder, so it retains all of the cocoa seeds’ inherent antioxidant power.

Why Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate?
Chocolate’s unique, complex flavor has made it the single most desired food treat in America. Its rich history stretches back to the sophisticated Aztec and Mayan civilizations, whose aristocrats quaffed cups of thick, dark cocoa, sans milk or sweetening, and sometimes with chilies.

More than 80 percent of the world’s raw cocoa comes from West Africa and Indonesia, whose cacao trees came to these former French and Dutch colonies from Latin America and the Caribbean. The trees have been crossbred over centuries, losing the distinctive characteristics of the original American cultivars along the way.

Like chili peppers, cacao is native only to Latin America and the Caribbean.  And recent years have witnessed a revival of premium chocolates made from original American cultivars—Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario (a cross of Criollo and Forastero)—from one or more of the prime cacao countries, such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.

After harvest, the seeds ferment in wooden bins and then dry under the sun, before the pure cocoa “nibs” are removed from the seed husk. The dark brown nibs are then ground into cocoa powder for use in beverages, or to blend repeatedly with sugar, cocoa butter (fat), and skill to create chocolate.

Our deeply flavorful extra-dark chocolate bars are custom-crafted using natural, un-Dutched cocoa from primal, intensely aromatic American cacao cultivars. And as we’ve said, each 2 oz bar features 80 percent cocoa solids, for deep, complex, floral flavors and maximum antioxidant power.

Why organic chocolate?
Organic cacao accounts for only a small fraction of the world’s annual 3 million ton harvest.  By selecting organic chocolate, we can help reduce use of synthetic, petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, protect the health of farm families, and support the expansion of environmentally sustainable methods of production.

Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate contains only cocoa certified organic by International Certification Services, and grown in the natural rainforest, preserving biodiversity and fragile animal habitats.

No chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used, and the cocoa beans (seeds) are never mixed with non-organic ones.

Our chocolate is made in a dedicated organic facility that undergoes a rigorous, periodic third-party inspection.  And, in accordance with USDA Certified Organic regulations, our chocolate contains only certified organic sugar, essential oils, fruits, and nuts.  In addition, all our ingredients are GMO-free and non-irradiated.

Why source direct from farmers and co-ops?
Unlike many agricultural commodities, 90 percent of all cocoa is grown on an estimated six million small family farms.  Most of these small farms barely survive, and suffer from constant fluctuations in commodity prices: adverse conditions that fair trade practices seek to alleviate.

The cocoa in Vital Choice Extra Dark Organic Chocolate comes from Central and South America, under direct agreements with farmers and co-ops.  These arrangements help ensure equitable wages and conditions, yet raise the cost to comparatively affluent American consumers only slightly.

As a result, you can enjoy our chocolate knowing that it supports the well-being of indigenous farmers' families, lands, communities, and cultures.

©Christof Krackhardt

Antioxidant power
Cocoa is naturally high in antioxidant phenols that neutralize free radicals, which can harm our cells, promote heart disease and cancer, and accelerate aging. As you’d expect, a dark chocolate bar—that is, one with a cocoa content above 60 percent—will offer an antioxidant capacity twice that of milk chocolate, which is typically 30 to 35 percent cocoa.

Ounce-for-ounce, dark chocolates offer a higher antioxidant capacity than any other food tested to date. People think of blueberries, accurately, as ranking near the top of the antioxidant scale, but dark chocolate offers five times more antioxidant capacity, ounce for ounce. Blueberries and other high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables are still preferable as staple foods, because they are fat free and deliver fewer calories and more fiber than dark chocolate, per unit of antioxidant capacity.

Researchers use a measure called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) to gauge the relative antioxidant power (capacity) of foods. A comparison of ORAC levels per 100 gram serving—performed by the US Dept of Agriculture—ranks dark chocolate at the top.

Food
ORAC Units 
(antioxidant capacity)
Dark chocolate 13,120
Milk chocolate 6,740
Prunes 5,770
Raisins 2,830
Blueberries 2,400
Blackberries 2,036
Kale 1,770
Strawberries 1,540
Spinach 1,260
Broccoli    894
Coffee (six oz cup reg. or decaf)    792


Heart health
Some large population studies find that high intakes of flavonoids (such as the flavonols in cocoa) correlate to reduced rates of coronary heart disease and stroke.  And laboratory and clinical findings support the idea that dark chocolate made from natural, non-Dutched cocoa is heart-healthy.
  • Consumption of flavanol-rich chocolates results in a rapid increase in blood antioxidant capacity (within two hours), and a decrease in free radical damage to blood lipids. This combination is associated with a reduced risk of plaque formation and heart disease.
  • Consumption of flavanol-rich chocolates induces a decrease in dangerous oxidation of LDL ("bad" cholesterol), an increase in total antioxidant capacity in the blood, and higher blood levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • The cocoa butter in chocolate is about one-third heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, while stearic acid—chocolate’s predominant saturated fat—has neutral effects on blood cholesterol.
  • Cocoa appears to helps reduce blood pressure, and relax blood vessels, thereby increasing stamina during exercise.
  • Flavanol-rich chocolate regulates signaling molecules called eicosanoids in ways that reduce inflammation in blood vessel walls and decrease platelet clumping: improvements in platelet function similar to those seen with aspirin therapy.
Minerals, mood, and cocoa myths
  • Vitamin and minerals: Cocoa is a source of vitamins B1 and B2 (about 10 percent of DRI each) magnesium (184 mg or 44 percent of DRI), and iron (17 mg or 94 percent of DRI).
  • Feel-better food: Chocolate contains small amounts of mood-elevating chemicals such as anandamides, methylxanthines, and phenylethylamine, and it also helps boost levels of the mood-elevating neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Digestion-friendly: The European Board of Health lists chocolate as a pre-digestive aid.
  • Sleep-safe: A 1.4 oz piece of chocolate has only as much as caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee. While it contains higher levels of a structurally similar compound called theobromine, this chemical is not a stimulant, and controlled studies show that it does not impair sleep. (Note: some young children are stimulated by chocolate, so don’t serve it to them just before bed.)
  • Non-allergenic: A recent study showed that only one out of 500 people who thought they were allergic to chocolate tested positive. Allergic reactions to chocolate products are more likely due to milk, nuts, or other ingredients.
  • Acne-safe: Controlled studies show that chocolate does not promote acne.
Photo credits: La Confederación Nacional de Cacaocultores Dominicanos, Inc (Conacado.com).  ©Christof Krackhardt and ©Gualberto Acebey, as noted.


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