Ep 92 – Eat This: The good and the scary of chocolate

It’s a scary time of year as Halloween approaches, and when I say scary, I’m not just talking about the goules and dressed up scary clowns, I’m talking about the sugar overload that’s unleashed at this time of year, that often continues right through to the January resolutions of eating better, ditching the sugar and hitting the gym. And yes, it’s the end of October, but whenever you are listening to this episode, my nutritionist self loathes this time of year because during the past 22 years in practice, I can truthfully say that the overload of sugar increases symptoms of sniffles, colds and flus to bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and IBS symptoms, acne flare ups, worsening eczema patches, I see mood worsen and energy–aka blood sugar balance, look like a rollercoaster ride that perpetuates the need for more sweet treats.

But there is another aspect to what’s called “The food of the Gods”. The transformation from cacao to the chocolate bar that you buy at the supermarket check out differs dramatically to social enterprise of small batch, bean to bar artisanal chocolate. I hear from clients and people looking for a good excuse to have a candy bar that “chocolate is good for you” – said with a cheeky grin, but not all chocolate is created equal. Sure, there are benefits to chocolate, and I’m talking about the dark variety here people, not your Twix or Kit Kat. There are specific aspects of chocolate that are in fact good for you; like it provides antioxidants called flavanoids, and they can play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and even weight loss. Cacao and therefore chocolate, contains theobromine and can help with inflammation that contributes to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke. Minerals like copper, iron, and magnesium, to name a few are taken in with every bite.

Then there’s the other aspect that can be scary about chocolate and that’s the ethical standards and practices involved in growing, farming and production. It’s a loaded topic, and I have an energetic and passionate guest today to help us know more. So today on EAT THIS with Lianne, the good and the scary about chocolate, with guest Michael Sacco from ChocoSol Traders here in my hometown of Toronto.

Remember that as consumers, every time you spend your money on something, it’s like you’re voting for that product and all that happens before it sits on the shelf in front of you, making its way to the check out and then home. Can you believe that the chocolate market easily tops $100 billion a year globally and is growing at a rate of almost 5 percent a year? Whoa, that’s a staggering number. I’m sure you contribute to this market, to various degrees at different times of the year. As I said off the top, right now as we head to Halloween and then the Christmas break, the sweet intake typically increases, then there’s a lull before Easter. Now I could go on about the scariness of the typical chocolate consumption, and I talked about some of this in episode 49 – For the Love of Chocolate with Chocolatier Marie Schlemm from the Tao of Chocolate, but in this episode, I’d like to bring in someone who has passion for all that’s behind that bite of chocolate and someone who knows more than I do about the efficient and responsible use of natural resources, fair payment to farmers and producers in the spirit of equity, safe and reasonable working conditions, and cooperation with local communities.

Welcome Michael Sacco, the Founder of the ChocoSol Learning community social enterprise that started in 2004 in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is currently the CEO of ChocoSol Toronto. I am a regular to his market stall, buying cacao nibs to top my smoothie bowls, cacao powder that I blend with blueberries and avocado that I top with the nibs, and my kids love his drinking chocolate, that won gold in the World Drinking Chocolate Awards in 2020, and gold at the Americas International Awards in 2019. I have a great stash of ChocoSol chocolate bars for when I feel like it too. Let’s stop drooling and hear from our guest today, so welcome Michael! 

I want to highlight further the health benefits of the type of chocolate that Michael talked about – the 70% cacao or more. Yes, research shows it can act as a mild antidepressant by boosting serotonin levels that has a calming effect, helps release endorphins–like you get when you exercise, to elevate mood and suppresses levels of cortisol, your stress-related hormone. And no don’t swap the chocolate for the gym in case your mind works like Chris’s and you hear something and flip it to your advantage. Dark chocolate is also of benefit to your skin. Another micro mineral called  manganese, supports the production of collagen, that protein that helps keep skin looking young and healthy that we talked about in 46, titled Collagen 101. Then there’s other minerals, like calcium, that helps repair and renew skin, which is pretty important because we can shed up to 40,000 skin cells each day! There’s even talk about the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate may protect skin from the powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun. I thought it best to finish off with some great reasons to enjoy chocolate, because it is a superfood in it’s own right. 

Ok, so Michael has offered you, my loyal listeners, a tremendous giveaway of a Day of the Dead chocolate sculpture! Enter at www.sproutright.com/chocolate and know that you need to be somewhat local as pick up at the store, 1131 St Clair Ave, in Toronto. Enter by Sunday November 14th to win! 

With all that said, I’m going to go have a nibble of my pumpkin seed chocolate and savour it as it melts, just as Marie taught us in episode 49

Have you subscribed to EAT THIS with Lianne – it’s the best way to not miss an episode. Rate it with 5 stars so others know how much you enjoy it. They’ll be more likely to take the time to try out an episode too. Share, share, share, and of course remember to EAT THIS one mouthful at a time! 

About Michael Sacco

Michael Sacco has his Masters of Environmental Studies 2003 from York University, Doctoral candidate (ABD all but dissertation) Trent University Indigenous studies program 2022 defense planned. Is the Founder of the ChocoSol Learning community social enterprise in 2004 in Oaxaca Mexico, current CEO of ChocoSol Toronto. He’s also the artistic and exhibit co-designer of the Royal Botanical Gardens Chocolate Exhibit and Royal Ontario Museum Maya exhibit cacao and maize workshops from 2012.

His research passions include appropriate technology, cradle to cradle technical and technological approaches to food making, climate regenerative forest garden agriculture, pedal power, soil making, and urban agriculture.

He has given TedX presentations, at the National Farmers Union, and at universities ranging from York University and McMaster University to the University of Vermont and the Universidad de la Tierra, Oaxaca México.

He hosts inquiry based workshops, and community arts installations focussed around the teachable moment of cacao and chocolate as it relates to different seasons and festivities.

He has also published a few articles, and has been featured in Corporate Knights magazine, and local newspapers for his work with ChocoSol many times since 2006, and has won multiple International gold, silver, and bronze medal awards for our dark, vegan, sustainable chocolates through the International Chocolate Awards competition. Most recently, he won gold in the World Drinking Chocolate Awards in 2020, and gold at the Americas International Awards in 2019. 

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