What Does "Organic Chocolate" Mean?
Chocolate is great, but you know what's even better? Organic chocolate.
But why is it better?
There's a lot of buzz around organic food because we look at a product labeled as organic and immediately think it's better. It is true, but we don't exactly know why that is.
It's a common misconception that an organic diet's goal is to help you lose weight. Although some claim that organic diets may help you shed a couple of pounds, the term "organic" does not actually relate to the number of calories, fat, sugar, or salt found in your food.
Today, we're going to help you understand what exactly "organic chocolate" means, and why you should care! You'll start shopping and looking at labels differently by the end of this article - and you'll also know where you can find the best organic chocolate in the world. Let's dive right in.
Understanding what "organic chocolate" means
Organic is a protected labeling term used to identify foods that undergo a strict standard of production and handling. For a chocolate to be considered USDA-certified organic chocolate, it must be subject to the organic certification process that adheres to the standards of the USDA.
This informs the consumers that no synthetic fertilizers, additives, pesticides, and antibiotics are used to grow the cocoa beans. It also ensures consumers that it was produced using a system of farming that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, promotes ecological balance, and preserves biodiversity.
To achieve ecological balance and preserve rich biodiversity, a company must learn to be sustainable. That means they should not take more from the environment than they need and leave enough resources for the ecosystem to survive.
Part of this is also making sure that the farmers growing the cocoa beans are being paid and treated fairly and that their rights are being upheld by the companies they work for.
How do cocoa beans get USDA Organic Certification?
Getting USDA Organic Certification is no easy feat. The organic label is not something given away freely to anyone who simply claims to be organic. It's a rigorous certification process that takes dedication and time.
Becoming USDA organic certified does not only apply to the end product. The entire production process of the chocolate must be organic as well. Brands must prepare an organic system plan that details the operations and farming practices on their farms.
From the moment the soil is tilled to the harvesting, storing, and transportation of the products. These are all taken into consideration by certifying agents. A brand also needs to ensure that the land their cocoa is grown on has been free from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides at least three years before their growth.
Weed and pest management, soil quality, crop health, and water systems are key factors to getting USDA-certified. Handling and storage facilities are also assessed, inspectors will present a risk assessment on the possible contamination of prohibited materials.
A Costly Application Process
It isn't cheap to become certified either. Before brands can apply for USDA Organic Certification they must be certified by a National Organic Program accredited agent first. Different agents may give different estimations on certification fees. Getting certified can usually cost anywhere between $700 to $1200, not including annual renewal fees.
But, there are cost-share programs that can help lower the costs of certification.
Once brands have been USDA-certified, it doesn't end there. Farm inspections are conducted annually to ensure that brands are staying true to their promise of producing organic food. If a brand fails to uphold the standards given by the USDA, the certifying agent can suspend or revoke its organic label at any time.
Categories for different organic chocolates
If you go through different organic products, you might notice that not all organic labels are the same. There are four categories for labeling organic products and knowing the difference between these categories may help you decide which organic chocolate is best for you.
The four categories for labeling organic products:
- 100 percent organic
- Made with organic ingredients
- Specific organic ingredients
Chocolates labeled "100 percent organic" must be made of all organic ingredients and must pass the organic certification process. "Organic" chocolate must contain at least 95% of certified organic ingredients. It may contain no more than five percent of non-organic ingredients allowed by the USDA.
Those labeled as chocolates "made with organic ingredients" should be made of at least 70% organic ingredients and the remaining 30% do not have to be organically produced ingredients. But, the product must still be not genetically modified.
Anything with less than 70% organically produced ingredients is labeled as "specific organic ingredients" and is not required to undergo the organic certification process. They are not allowed to use the USDA Organic Seal and are not considered organic.
Misconceptions about organic chocolate
There are plenty of misconceptions about organic chocolates and organic foods in general. Here are some of the most common misconceptions surrounding organic chocolate and food:
Organic chocolate will help you lose weight
Sadly, anything eaten in excess will cause you to gain weight. However, organic dark chocolate has a lower sugar content, no high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial flavorings. Dark chocolate is also said to induce satiety which can help you avoid eating excessively. So instead of snacking on chips or other junk food that doesn't help get rid of cravings, switch to organic dark chocolate instead.
Organic chocolate isn't any healthier than conventional chocolate
As long as you see the USDA Organic Seal on your chocolate, this ensures that what you're eating contains zero artificial flavorings, is non-GMO, and was not treated with any synthetic additives.
Although its effects on weight gain are still unclear, it does help you avoid ingesting chemicals from pesticides or synthetic fertilizers that may have been carried throughout the production process and onto our plates.
Some studies have also found that eating 6 grams of organic dark chocolate a day(approximately 1-2 small squares) can help in reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
This may even reduce the chances of getting heart disease. These are caused by the flavanols that are naturally found in plants such as cacao that help improve blood flow.
The standards for organic chocolate is different in every country
The USDA standards for organic products are aligned with international standards. The USDA also hires certifiers from around the world to assess and inspect farms in other countries that sell their products to the United States.
100% Organic is the same as 100% Natural
A huge misconception is that 100% organic and 100% natural are the same. Natural does not mean organic. Organic is a highly regulated term. The FDA and the USDA do not have any regulations on what is considered "natural".
So the next time you see a product labeled as 100% natural, just know it doesn't mean organic. Labeling products as 100% natural is just a marketing tactic used by other companies to get more consumers interested in their products. It is purposely done to mislead consumers.
Now that you're aware, you won't have to fall for these misleading marketing tactics!
Why should you choose organic chocolate over conventional chocolate?
At this point, it should be obvious why organic chocolates are better than conventional chocolates. But if you still aren't convinced, let me tell you why organic is the better choice.
Organic chocolate is better for the environment
Conventional chocolate, unlike organic chocolate, is grown with synthetic fertilizers and may even be genetically modified. Conventionally grown cocoa beans are actually one of the crops that use the highest amounts of pesticides.
This may not only affect consumers, but it may cause a direct risk to the farmers growing the cocoa beans and, especially, to the environment. The excess nitrogen from synthetic fertilizers and the chemicals from pesticides are some of the major culprits for global warming.
With all the fear surrounding climate change caused by greenhouse gases, you'll be glad to know that organic farming systems help reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. Organic processes include swapping synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for natural fertilizers and organic pest control.
Organic chocolate is safer for consumers
If you're concerned about the health benefits of organic chocolate, keep in mind that non-organic chocolate also uses bigger amounts of high fructose corn syrup. This is one of the leading causes of weight gain and obesity, which may even lead to diabetes.
They may also include artificial flavoring and coloring that may cause allergies to some and it may even contain wax —and you don't want to be eating wax.
Some organic chocolate may have the same calorie count as conventional chocolate but without the risk of ingesting more toxins and chemicals. If you're still worried about the caloric content, try organic dark chocolate instead.
Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa solids and a lower percentage of sugar and cocoa butter. It also contains no milk making it a great option for people with a sweet tooth but are lactose-intolerant.
Organic chocolate is ethically-made
Chocolates labeled as organic do not only refer to the product itself. How a bar of chocolate is made also defines whether or not it is organic. Brands with poor farming practices that put their farmers at risk or poor working conditions cannot be considered organic.
So to sum it all up, organic chocolate is not only safer to eat compared to conventional chocolates. It is also better for the environment and ethically made, so you can enjoy your tasty treat 100% guilt-free!
Where can you find organic dark chocolate?
Mid-Day Squares has one of the best selections of organic chocolate. The best part is, they are USDA-certified 100% organic chocolate! Their chocolates are also gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, and soy-free.
Their main ingredients include raw chocolate, yacon syrup, hemp protein, pumpkin seeds, cocoa butter, sacha inchi protein, maca powder, and pink salt.
This is a brand you can trust.
They've got three different variations of organic chocolate: Almond Crunch, Peanut Butta, and Fudge YAH! You can try all three flavors by availing of their starter pack. First-time customers get $10 off!