Is Raw Cacao or Dark Chocolate Really Healthy?

Is Raw Cacao and Dark Chocolate Really Healthy?

Many people have been misinformed and confused by the big movement in the raw cacao and dark chocolate food industries to believe that these substances are some of the healthiest foods in the world you can eat and you should eat as much of them as you like. These statements are simply not true, and in my opinion, are motivated by addiction and money.

Manufacturers of raw cacao and dark chocolate are making a great profit on this healthy marketing hype and charging top dollar for something that really isn’t much better for you than a cheap chocolate bar from the grocery store. Chocolate addicts, like all addicts, are always looking for a way to justify the usage or consumption of their drug of choice and get angry when you try to tell them otherwise. Just like alcoholics love to hear that a beer a day or a glass of wine has some health benefits when we all really know better. No matter how you cut it, eating chocolate, or raw cacao, on a regular basis is not healthy.

Proponents of raw cacao and dark chocolate will say that there is a difference between raw and refined chocolate. The primary difference is that raw cacao and dark chocolate contain high levels of antioxidants and minerals, while refined chocolate does not. However, the issues I am focusing on in this post are true regardless of whether we are talking about refined chocolate, dark chocolate or raw cacao.

Supporters of the raw cacao craze tell us that it is healthy for us because it is very high in antioxidants and magnesium. Well, that may be true, but you must look at the overall nutritional value of a food to determine its level of healthiness, not just one component. The negative aspects that are inherent in chocolate in any form far outweigh the positives.

Raw cacao contains over 300 naturally occurring chemicals and many of them are detrimental to the human body and mind when consumed on a regular basis. Many of them could be considered toxins. Some of the most potent, harmful, and disconcerting include theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine. These chemicals have a devastating effect on the central nervous system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular and endocrine system and can result in depression, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, nausea, nervous disorders, osteoporosis, heart and circulation disorders and many more. The chemicals in raw cacao are actually much more potent than processed chocolate because they are presented to us in raw form.

All chocolate is produced through fermentation, and any food that is fermented is high in glutamate and histamine, which can contribute to elevated levels in people with high histamine or glutamate.

It is also very high in mold and mycotoxins (toxins produced by certain species of mold) like aflatoxin and ochratoxin, which can lead to a wide array of neurological symptoms. Aflatoxin is also carcinogenic, and it can be found in peanuts, pistachios, rice, wheat, and corn as well. Chocolate is also high in oxalic acid which can inhibit the absorption of calcium.

In addition to that, raw cacao stimulates high levels of serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, three crucial neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood, pain, sleep, and appetite, and the cycle of addiction, and has high levels of other chemicals like phenylethylamine and anandamide.

Serotonin is our natural anti-depressant, dopamine provides feelings of happiness, pleasure, focus, and attention, and endorphins are our natural pain relievers. Sufficient levels of neurotransmitters are needed for good physical and mental health, however, high levels of any of these neurotransmitters produce feelings of intense pleasure, euphoria, well-being, and reduction of pain. For example, people become addicted to opioids because they increase endorphins, amphetamines because they increase dopamine, and alcohol because it increases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.

Phenylethylamine is an amphetamine that stimulates dopamine receptors and increases pulse, blood sugar levels, alertness, and blood pressure. Phenylethylamine occurs naturally in our brain and is the chemical released when we fall in love and thus why many people are addicted to falling in love and having serial relationships. However, the phenylethylamine that occurs naturally is much lower in quantity and potency than chocolate.

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, a neurotransmitter that is affected by marijuana use and addiction, thus, providing a similar kind of a high. Endocannabinoids affect sensory and time perception, pleasure, appetite, pain, coordination, concentration, memory, thought, and movement and have a dampening effect on all other neurotransmitters. They, too, are naturally occurring in the brain, but marijuana and chocolate cause excessive stimulation, which produces the high. Additionally, other chemicals in chocolate decrease the breakdown of our neurotransmitter anandamide, which prolongs the euphoric effects of chocolate.

Chocolate contains another substance called epicatechin that has morphine-like activity. In Breaking the Food Seduction, Dr. Neal Barnard states “the truth is that chocolate is, in essence, an addictive drug. It targets the same spot on your brain as heroin or morphine.” This is demonstrated partly by the fact that studies have found Naloxone, an opiate-blocking drug that is used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, has been found to also eliminate cravings and desire for chocolate. As a matter of fact, Naloxone will make chocolate completely unappealing. Thus, demonstrating that the brain is affected by chocolate in the same way as opiates.

He states, chocolate does not stimulate opiate receptors to the same degree as narcotics, but it is a similar effect and this is the driving force of what keeps us coming back for more chocolate. According to Barnard, cravings for chocolate can also be eliminated with some other drugs that target neurotransmitters like Wellbutrin and Topamax, again demonstrating chocolates influence on neurotransmitters

Barnard, explains “chocolate is not just a single drug-like compound, it’s basically the whole drugstore, traces of mild opiates, caffeine, amphetamine-like components, and the equivalent of a slight whiff of marijuana,” all wrapped into one. However, just as the “taste of sugar touching the tongue appears to send a signal to the brain that triggers a virtually instant opiate effect, chocolate likely does the same in addition to the effects of its chemical cornucopia.” If chocolate is combined with a 50/50 mixture of sugar and fat, (substances that also affect neurotransmitters) it “reaches its point of maximal irresistibility.”

Additionally, in a review of the literature, researchers deduced “chocolate may evoke similar psychopharmacologic and behavioral reactions in susceptible persons” as drugs and alcohol.” They explain that “Chocolate contains several biologically active constituents (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), all of which potentially cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations that parallel those of other addictive substances. It may be used by some as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies (eg, magnesium) or to balance low levels of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors (eg, serotonin and dopamine).” They alert dietetics professionals that they “must be aware that chocolate cravings are real. The psychopharmacologic and chemosensory effects of chocolate must be considered when formulating recommendations for overall healthful eating and for treatment of nutritionally related health issues.”

This is why chocolate makes you feel so good and is so addictive. You are essentially high when you eat chocolate. The presence of these chemicals actually indicates that raw cacao is a mind-altering, addictive drug. Raw cacao overstimulates or mimics neurotransmitters in the brain, just like hard drugs like cocaine and morphine. Overstimulation or mimicking of neurotransmitters causes the brain to cut back on production as it is tricked into thinking it has too many and this leads to depletion of neurotransmitters and tolerance.

Depletion of neurotransmitters leads to addiction, as well as a variety of other health issues like neurotransmitter imbalances, insomnia, depression, anxiety, obesity, hyperactivity, chronic pain, fatigue, nervousness, adrenal fatigue, and violence. Chocolate in any form stimulates feelings of euphoria, which keep us coming back for more. If high dosages of raw cacao are consumed, hallucinations can occur.

When you eat chocolate or raw cacao, it’s as if you have toked a little off a joint, drank a bit of wine, snorted some cocaine and meth, and shot up some heroin all at the same time, because it stimulates endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and anandamide in the same manner as these drugs. It is somewhat less potent than the harder drugs, but still the exact same process in the brain. It is no wonder the world is in love with chocolate.

Many of these chemicals are also overstimulating to the autonomic nervous system and thrust the body into a state of fight or flight. If eaten on a continuous basis, it can lead to chronic dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which results in a wide array of psychological and physiological symptoms like high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, heart-pounding, inability to sleep, depression, headaches, migraines, tachycardia, overactive bladder and much more.

All this impact on neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system has a detrimental impact on the adrenal glands because they cause overstimulation to this organ as well. When the adrenal glands are overstimulated, they are called upon to continually release cortisol and other stress hormones, this is what results in the feelings of alertness and energy when raw cacao is consumed. Over time as the adrenal glands are called upon continuously to release these hormones, they burn out. They no longer produce cortisol as they should, which leads to adrenal fatigue and eventually exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue or exhaustion leads to many chronic health conditions and symptoms like excessive fatigue, inability to handle stress, anxiety, depression, and many more.

People become dependent on raw cacao or chocolate because now their neurotransmitters and adrenal glands don’t function properly on their own, they now need the raw cacao to perform their duties. They experience fatigue, lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, etc. when it isn’t eaten, so they eat it all the time.

Furthermore, anytime the stress response system is activated, as it is from the caffeine in chocolate, epinephrine triggers the liver to release sugar that it has stored into the bloodstream, thus increasing blood sugar levels, which then leads to an insulin response and then the inevitable of storage of excess sugar as fat. This means that chocolate can contribute to insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.

Both raw unfermented cocoa beans and your regular cocoa powder contain exceptionally high levels of phytic acid and so does processed chocolate to a slightly lesser extent. Phytates are antinutrients that bind to your minerals and make them unavailable to your body and decrease the activity of important digestive enzymes like amylase, pepsin, and trypsin, which means they may contribute to mineral deficiencies, gut inflammation, leaky gut, and autoimmune disorders.

Not only that, many brands of cacao have high levels of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and copper. All of which can have a profound negative effect on neurotransmitter production and function and thus emotional health. High levels of heavy metals are implicated in numerous mental health issues.

Other symptoms or conditions that can develop from the overconsumption of raw cacao may include abnormal growth of glands, panic attacks, irritability, headaches, outbursts of unexplainable anger, mood swings, impaired colon functioning, birth abnormalities, irritated kidneys, trembling, damage to the liver, violence, paranoia, PMS, OCD, and dizziness.

We could sum this up simply by saying that raw cacao overstimulates the heart, mind, nervous system, and body. Overstimulation is never a good thing. It leads to burnout, malfunction, and degradation. To say that it is a healthy Superfood is simply ludicrous.

If you’ve visited me before, then you know that I am a strong advocate of the Paleo diet. Unfortunately, many people in the primal community are also under the false belief that eating dark chocolate or raw cacao is healthy. You will find dark chocolate in the ingredients of many Paleo recipes. I urge you to not get caught up in this misinformation. In addition to all that we’ve already discussed, our caveman ancestors were not indulging in anything that resembles chocolate. Keep in mind that most Paleo recipes are written for the general population, not people with chronic mental or physical health conditions. Yes, someone who is generally in good health can get away with indulgences in some unhealthy behaviors like eating chocolate without too many consequences. At this site, we are dealing with things like addiction, mental health disorders, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune disorders, endocrine system disorders, candida overgrowth, autonomic nervous system disorders, and much more. For this group of people, you do not have the same luxury or freedom for indulgences. The Paleo people feel that chocolate is a sensible indulgence, but for many people, this would not be sensible.

If you do indulge, consumption should be restricted to special occasions and should be done so with your eyes wide open and aware of the facts, not in a veil of delusion and lies. Not under the false assumption that you are eating something healthy and not in a state of denial and justification to continue a harmful addiction. An occasional piece of organic cacao or chocolate that is sugar-free is not going to do any long-term damage in most people, (unless you are in recovery from addiction, in which case, it can lead to relapse) however it should not be part of the diet on a regular basis.

In my personal experience, it does not matter if it is organic processed chocolate, dark chocolate, or raw cacao, they all have the same negative effects. If I would eat any of them they give me a headache, anxiety attacks, hyperactivity, trembling and nervousness, racing heartbeat, irritability, and I’d be up all night. Not only that, my addiction to chocolate comes back in full force. If you have a chocolate addiction, it is just like any other addiction, and it will return if you engage with the substance. Knowing what I know about raw cacao and chocolate makes it something that I couldn’t indulge in with good conscience and the price I would pay in symptoms is simply too high. So I steer clear of it completely. If I’m in the mood for a creamy chocolate experience, I will indulge in carob instead. Carob is just as satisfying and doesn’t come with any of the negative effects of raw cacao or chocolate, other than the fact that it is a legume. But an occasional indulgence with a legume is not too detrimental.

Some other very important and rather repulsive facts about chocolate you also want to be aware of are revealed to us in “Poison with a Capital C.” “Every time you eat a chocolate bar, it may contain a rodent hair and 16 insect parts and still carry the blessing of the FDA.” And, “For chocolate powder or cakes there must not be more than 75 insect fragments in three tablespoons of powder.” And, “Four percent of cacao beans may be infested by insects. Animal excreta (such as visible rat droppings) must not exceed 10 milligrams per pound.”

So that may be something you want to think about every time you have a craving for a chocolate bar. On the other hand, I’m sure that this is true of many mass-produced foods like nuts, seeds, and grains and we aren’t aware of it. The mass processing of food would make it inevitable that insects, rodents, and their fecal material would make it into our food supply. Disgusting to think about, but probably a reality.

Here are a few other web pages you may want to visit for more information on raw cacao toxicity:

Proponents of raw cacao like to leave me comments and adamantly proclaim they have no problems eating it and provide me with a list of “so-called” benefits, but that is beside the point. As we have already discussed earlier, we must look at the entire nutritional picture to determine whether something is truly healthy. The existence of some benefits in a food does not override the existence of clear and present dangers. This page does not exist to discuss the benefits, it exists to educate people about the risks and dangers and to validate the experiences of those who are having these negative effects.

Of course, there will be some people who see no negative impacts from the consumption of any form of chocolate. Some people can smoke cigarettes like a freight train and drink alcohol like a fish for their entire lifetime and see no negative results either, but that doesn’t mean it’s something we should all do. If you happen to be blessed with a magnificent set of genes and an autonomic nervous system made of steel, then you might be one of the lucky ones, but not many of us are. By making simple changes in our diet, we can alter the way our genes will express themselves and thus make improvements in our health.

Some people are more sensitive to the chemicals found in chocolate and raw cacao than others. It is typically people who have a very hypersensitive sympathetic nervous system and/or neurotransmitter imbalances, or problems in their detoxification system and these are the people who need to restrict consumption the most.

Anyone who lives with the challenges of any of the following conditions should severely restrict their consumption of chocolate or raw cacao or avoid it altogether, because they are some of the most vulnerable to these negative effects: sugar or carb addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction, caffeine addiction, nicotine addiction, PMS, irritable bowel, leaky gut, food sensitivities, Candida overgrowth, neurotransmitter imbalances or deficiencies, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chemical sensitivities, hyperactivity, attention deficit, diabetes, type 2 diabetes, depression, compulsive overeaters, anxiety disorders, mood swings, heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, migraine headaches, hormone imbalances, Tourette’s, autism, anger management issues, outbursts of rage, violence or any other mental health issue or autonomic nervous system disorder.

However, sometimes it can take a while for symptoms to develop. The human body can take a lot of abuse before things go awry. So, if you happen to be someone who eats chocolate with no problem today, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Things change as we get older, as we face different stressors and environments and go through other life events. Most people would do well to restrict their consumption regardless of their health status, as the autonomic nervous system can become sensitized and neurotransmitters disrupted over time.

Just because raw cacao or dark chocolate contains antioxidants and minerals like magnesium doesn’t mean it should be eaten. The extremely bitter taste of this substance is nature’s way of providing us with an indicator of the toxins it contains and is supposed to serve as a deterrent. Antioxidants and magnesium can be found in a variety of other healthier foods that don’t contain the dangerous and harmful chemicals that cacao contains. We can get those benefits elsewhere without the risks and negative health effects.

If you need help overcoming your addiction to chocolate or raw cacao, you’ll want to take a look at this page for a summary of the steps necessary.

Drewnowski, A., Krahn, D. D., Demitrack, M. A., Nairn, K. & Gosnell, B. A. (1995) Naloxone, an opiate blocker, reduces the consumption of sweet high-fat foods in obese and lean female binge eaters. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 61:1206-1212.

Drewnowski, A., Krahn, D. D., Demitrack, M. A., Nairn, K. & Gosnell, B. A. (1992) Taste responses and preferences for sweet high-fat foods: evidence for opioid involvement. Physiol. Behav. 51:371-379.

Bruinsma K, Taren DL. Chocolate Food or Drug? J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Oct;99(10):1249-56.

Ashley N. Gearhardt, MS, MPhil; Sonja Yokum, PhD, et al. Neural Correlates of Food Addiction Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;Volume 68 No.(8):808-816.

Jennifer A. Nassera, et al. The Neural Basis of Feeding and Reward: A Tribute to Bart Hoebel. Physiology & Behavior, Volume 104, Issue 1, 25 July 2011, Pages 117–121.

DiFeliceantonio AG, Mabrouk OS, Kennedy RT, Berridge KC. Enkephalin Surges in Dorsal Neostriatum as a Signal to Eat. Current Biology. Published online September 20 2012

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Chocolate, A Dangerous Drug.

Ecuadorian Cacao Powder Heavy Metals Lab Test

Barnard, Neal, M.D. Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings. St. Martin’s Griffin (September 23, 2004)

di Tomaso E, Beltramo M, Piomelli D. Brain cannabinoids in chocolate. Nature. 1996 Aug 22;382(6593):677-8.

Panneerselvam M. et al. Dark chocolate receptors: epicatechin-induced cardiac protection is dependent on delta-opioid receptor stimulation. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2010 Nov ;299(5)

87 thoughts on “Is Raw Cacao or Dark Chocolate Really Healthy?”

  1. I bought some raw certified cacao powder a couple of days ago! I made a hot cup of cacao in the morning and I felt great for a few hours after but as the day went on I felt tightness in my chest and in my throat! I was struggling on my evening walk with the dog, I had to stop every so often to gasp for air! It was ridiculous! At night I got no sleep, My body was shut down! Because I was so exhuasted it was so hard to get up but I needed to breathe! I started acting psychotic slapping my self in the face and punching myself in the head! I was losing my mind! I thought I was going crazy and that I might die because I could not get air into my lungs! Not knowing that it was the cacao doing this I had another cup the next day! It was the worst two days of my life! The only thing that had changed in my diet was the cacao so I did a search on google and I found this website! This is a great article and has helped me mentally cause I am still not feeling better but at least now I know where the damage has come from! Cacao is toxic! Maybe I had to much (I had 2 teaspoons with milk a day for two days in a row) but how was I supposed to know? Most people says its healthy!

  2. I had a bad experience with raw cocoa recently also. I made some raw pudding with raw cocoa and coconut milk. I put about 2 heaping tablespoons in my pudding and ate the whole dish. A couple of hours later, my heart felt like it was pounding and like I might have a heart attack. I felt very anxious and unwell. This went on for several hours. NEVER AGAIN!

    My new rule is that if something can KILL a dog in small amounts, it is probably not a good idea for me to eat it. This applies to xylitol, also, which can be fatal for dogs. I tried xylitol and it really wreaked havoc on my blood sugar.

    Thanks for spreading the word, unpopular though it may be. I have psoriasis and I suspect I am going to find out that now that I am eliminating chocolate and raw cocoa from my diet that there is going to be a great improvement.

    Cathy B.

  3. Thanks for the information. I recently was turned on to the ‘wonders’ of raw cacao, and being a rawfoodist and a chocolate lover I thought it was my saving grace! But now two weeks later and a daily diet of raw chocolate squares (2-4 small squares per day), I feel awful. I noticed the mornings after eating cacao I would feel nauseus and headachey. I also experienced irritability and mood swings. This has carried on in varying intensities over the period. Then last night I thought I would confirm my suspicions about the cacao and ate 5 squares. About an hour later I noticed feeling awful and then today I have had the worst headaches and nausea. I know it now to be the cacao, having maintained my raw diet in all other ways. I have never experienced such awful feelings from eating dark cooked chocolate, although I am caffeine sensitive. So no more squares for me. Finally I am sad to say that I am a breast feeding mama, and wonder how this cacao habit has been affecting my baby girl. 🙁

  4. This information is pretty essential! I turned raw vegan 4 years ago, and since then had included green smoothies almost every day in my diet. Here is where I would give myself a heaping spoonful of cacao.. and I never suffered any negative consequences other than needing cacao to be integral to the bliss my very green, and sometimes purple smoothie would give me. Now, four years later, i’ve moved to a new city, started to go to university and the dreaded ‘college diet’ comes sneaking up on me. All the sugars I was eating were natural, though in enormous quantities, such as up to 15 or so large, gooey, dates a day (dipped in almond butter, no less) and yes, dark chocolate bars consumed at an extraordinary rate , (again, dipped oh-so-naughtily) in almond butter.) although I was still vegan and this wasn’t a problem. then a couple months ago, my boyfriend arrived to live with me (who is recovering from ibs and so needs to eat a lot of nut butters, eggs, cheese, and meat to remain healthy) so the peanut butter consumption skyrocketted (as it is cheaper than almond) as well as i started to turn more vegetarian for the first time in 4 years, incorporating eggs and cheese into my diet. Soon I was finding that i would absolutely fiend out for cheese, or peanut butter, and especially chocolate and a combination of these three seemed to me the perfect snack or dessert! well, to cut a long story short, i am now suffering a couple weeks from candida and the one thing that seems to dig the deepest in my psyche is the lack of chocolate. I absolutely CRAVE it. when i was vegan, the chocolate was treated by my body as the perfect kicker to start off the day, every day. introducing those other animal products into my diet seemed to have compromised my immune system, not to mention the amount of sugary dates i was eating, and the amount of sugary fruits i would pile into my smoothie. (banana – you rascal.) I feel like chocolate truely is a drug and I’m still hankering for my fix – any idea on what a withdrawal could be like after four or so odd years?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Maryam,

      Some people can get away with being a vegan for a period of time when they are younger, but it usually catches up with them as they get older. Meat is an essential component of the diet. It was not the meat that weakened your immune system, it was all the sugar and carbohydrates. Sugar depletes the immune system as well as destroys the body in many other ways. Please read these pages

      Other things to keep in mind. Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes. Legumes are destructive to the gastrointestinal tract and should be avoided or restricted. Peanuts are also very high in alfatoxin. A toxin released by mold that is also destructive to the GI tract as well as the brain.

      Sounds like you may have a sensitivity to the peanuts and dairy since you are craving them. We often crave the foods we shouldn’t eat. However, you may just be craving them because they too alter your neurotransmitters and give you a fix similar to your chocolate.

      I can’t say how long or severe your withdrawal might be. It is likely to be pretty intense, but the worse should be over in a week. However, you’ll need to address all the other issues, that are mentioned in the pages I referred you to above.


  5. Hi Cynthia,

    I just bought some raw cacao thinking I could have it on the anti-candida diet stage one but now I guess it will go to waste. Is it ok if I invest in carob chips/powder then to create candida friendly desserts when I need them? It’s not often but perhaps once or twice a week I need to satisfy that itch.

    Also, a little off topic… You mentioned that the more you crave something the more likely you’re sensitive to it (something I’ve heard before as well).. Up until recently I was vegetarian but due to your post on candida and vegetarianism plus total lack of truly anti-candida diet friendly recipes I started to eat meat again. I’ve found myself craving fish the most and am really enjoying it to the point I want it almost every day. The only reason I don’t is because I try to limit it to 3 or 4 meals a week. Does this mean that I might be sensitive to fish?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Katy,

      Carob is definitely better for you than chocolate or raw cacao. I recommend it in place of chocolate for an occasional desert, holidays and special occasions. You can visit this post where I’ve written a little bit about carob.:

      But to summarize what’s on that page, carob is healthier because it contains more nutritional value and it doesn’t have any of the negative impacts on health that chocolate has. However, carob is a legume. Legumes are high in carbohydrates and feed Candida, Legumes are also high in lectins, which damage the GI tract and cause nutritional deficiencies, so they should be restricted.

      I think twice a week is too frequent for someone with Candida. You want to break the habit of eating processed food and retrain your brain to desire healthier sweets like fruit and nuts. When you want something sweet, have some almonds, macadamias, walnuts etc. and a few slices of fruit together. The combination together is very satiating, thus eliminating that itch. Try to reserve the carob for a couple times a month and/or holidays. Visit these pages for more info on diet:

      When you use carob chips, make sure that you are getting the unsweetened kind and keep in mind that the unsweetened contain dairy, which adds a bit of lactose, (milk sugar), thus increasing the ability to flare Candida.


    2. Admin - Cynthia Perkins


      Hi Katy, I forgot to respond to your other question about cravings. It is possible you have a sensitivity to fish, but you may be craving what the fish provides you — omega-3s.

      Most cravings have an underlying issue and it is that issue that needs resolved to resolve the craving. For example, people with a serotonin, dopamine or endorphin deficiency often crave sugar and carbs. It isn’t really the carb they are craving, it is what the carb does for them that they crave. Carbs and sugar temporarily increase serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, thus relieving many of the symptoms that make them miserable and crave like anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, etc. Unfortunately, the consumption of sugar and carbs actually depletes neurotransmitters even more and perpetuates the cravings. If one restores balance to the neurotransmitters with a high protein diet, changes in lifestyle and supplementation, then the craving for the carb and sugar will dissipate.

      The same could apply to the fish. Fish are very in high in omega-3s. You may be deficient in omega-3 and therefore crave the fish, because it is giving you what you need.Unlike the sugar and carb scenario, fish will not deplete your nutrients. It will restore them, so eating the fish is not a bad thing on that level.

      However, keep in mind that most fish is highly contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals, so eating it every day could be detrimental by causing heavy metal toxicity. Be sure you are eating Alaskan wild caught fish for the cleanest possibility. Additionally, you could also try supplementing with molecularly distilled fish oil. It has the toxins removed. If cravings persist, then there may be a sensitivity to fish and you may want to consider something like the ALCAT test.


  6. i have been a ‘part-time’ raw fooder for about 4 years since being quite ill, hospital etc. i purchased many raw food books, and a couple of the authors here in the UK also have raw food websites selling products. they are good guys, and it seems cacoa does not affect them !
    well its weird, but each time i eat cacoa, or even cacoa butter (in ‘white’ raw chocolate bars…) the next day i am AUFUL to live with, and i notice this most with my partner. i never realised for ages, just couldnt really understand why i was extra touchy and grumpy. i used to apologise for how badly i reacted to things. then after quite a while, i noticed it was the day after eating the raw cacoa.
    i tried white chocolate bars, had the same reaction, then on reading the ingredients didnt realise it still had cacoa butter in them.
    even the really yummy ‘naked’ bars you can buy in the heath food stores etc, the one with cacoa in had the same effect the next day.
    interesting to read ‘i am not alone’…..!

  7. Hello Cynthia,

    I desperately need some advice regarding the chocolate withdrawal symptoms. My story goes back to childhood and has probably a lot to do with some inherited predisposition.

    As long as I can remember myself, I fancied sugar, and chocolate was the star dainty among the others. As sweets are generally well regarded, or at least a craving for them is condoned, when one is a child, I grew up having more or less easy access to them. I was the one to go for groceries and the deal was that once I procured all the items on the shopping list, I could keep the change. I would then stash this change while eying some desired delicacy in the store and once I had enough, would buy the desired item.
    Then, when I was 15, my parents left the country for a period of nine months, I was left (despite being in the care of my 18 year-old brother) largely on my own (but probably completely neglected is a better description). As I had to wait by the phone for my mom to call us with important information, but as the time or day of call was not established or certain, I spent several weeks largely alone in the apartment without any reliable food supply. Without being aware of it, but realizing it now, I ate one chocolate bar a day with little else in between.
    And this has started my long love affair with chocolate ever since. Those nine months have imprinted painfully in my consciousness as it was for the first time in my life that I was hit hard with the shock that no one really cared for me (besides my mom who was very far at that time), everyone that I thought loved me (grandfather, uncles, even my own brother whom I idolized and adored) showed no interest in my life or my well being. I was, after all at the precocious age of 15 when it is quite easy to become pray of opportunistic male predators. Everyone was preoccupied with their own interests and concerns and as we recently moved to a new neighbourhood before my parents left the country, I was absolutely desolate in my loneliness.
    Once we all moved to Canada shortly after (I was almost 16), chocolate became the mainstay of my diet and lifestyle, gradually increasing in frequency of consumption and in the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate. After almost 20 years of this, I began to have peculiar skin rashes, landing twice in the emergency room with prednisone and benadryl pumped into me through the IV. It affected mainly my head and neck, but lastly affecting my entire body. Of course, by this time I was also an emotional wreck: melancholia attacks, extreme mood swings, almost constant crying fits and bouts of deep and potentially dangerous depression. I lost the will to live…
    It took me a long time to finally realize that it was the chocolate (besides the feeling of unrelenting longing for my homeland, the painful inability to integrate and, most importantly, to belong) as well as the sweets in general that were at the cause of all this. Of course, I probably would not have developed such a sensitivity to caffeine and other ingredients in the chocolate had I not had an intestinal infection (about 7 years after moving to Canada – at the age of 22) which was detected after quite some time. This left my intestines very sensitive and irritable to certain foods.
    Now, at the age of 36 and relocated yet again to Europe where I am in the process of doing my PhD, I have finally faced the problem, went on a strict Candida diet for about three months and have permanently eliminated from my diet anything with caffeine as well as sweets and dairy.
    My skin has finally returned to its beautiful, china-doll appearance, my mood swings, crying fits and relentless depression and feelings of helplessness have slowly disappeared.

    It has only been about three months, however, and I am finding that I am still quite listless and quite tired all the time. I have to do an enormous amount of reading for my dissertation, but I find that I still have trouble concentrating with a feeling of fullness and fogginess in my head. It is alleviated somewhat by eating. I really would like to get my energy back (I will join the university gym as soon as the circumstances will permit) so as to be able to be the most productive for my studies and my research responsibilities.
    Would you be able to recommend something for me to get rid of these unwanted symptoms? My diet is largely the Candida diet I followed for three months with some addition of fruits and 100% yeast-free rye bread and raw organic butter.
    Your insights would be of great help as I am in new surroundings in terms of where I live at the moment and wold not know who to consult about this.

    Thank you very much for your help and sorry for my long recountal.


    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Kassandra,

      Your story is a classic story of how addiction develops. Addiction regardless of whether we are talking about chocolate, sugar , drugs, alcohol etc. all has the same roots – disrupted or depleted neurotransmitters. There are many factors involved in this process like adrenal fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, hypoglycemia, childhood abuse or neglect, chronic stress and many more. Each of these issues must be addressed. You can use the search function on my site and my blog to find an abundance of information on these topics, but here’s a few of them

      Grains should not be part of the Candida diet. I recommend a slightly modified version of the Paleolithic diet.

      There are a variety of nutritional supplements that would be helpful, but we would need to discuss things in more detail to know which ones you need, I offer consultation by phone or skype since you are out of the country. My fees and options can be found on the following page:

      But you can find some general info on this page:

      Alternatively, you can find a chapter on each of these issues in my Sugar Addiction Book or my Anxiety and Depression Book.

      Best Regards

  8. Hello! This is a fantastic piece!
    I love chocolate and since I love it, I wanted to find out more about it for a post. In my research, there is tons of info on how great Cacao and cocoa are – but this was truly enlightening as were the comments.
    I have also been researching serotonin/dopamine so the connection between chocolate and neurotransmitters was hugely useful and interesting to me!
    I will be crediting you in my post!

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      You’re welcome, Peter. I sent you a personal email in regard to your other question. All the best.

  9. Hmm. I’ve been having straight up cocoa powder in milk recently. It’s really good but it sort of gives me a stomach ache and last time it even woke me up. (The stomach ache, that is. It wasn’t a really bad one, but uncomfortable enough to disturb me I guess.) I’ve gotten nothing like the crazy symptoms George described though. But maybe I will look into carob, I’ve never heard of that.

    Funny thing is, I was never a chocolate addict, but since I started trying to make my diet healthier I’ve been eating more of it! This is starting to become a trend… I find something people say is healthy, increase it in my diet, read all about how healthy it is, then I start finding the sites saying it’s unhealthy and I have to decrease it again! Vegetables are the only thing I can cling to with any certainty anymore! (And even then I found a site saying you shouldn’t eat spinach too often..)

  10. Cynthia, thank you for shedding some intelligent light on this subject. I am overly sensitive to cacao and must avoid it. It’s very reassuring to know that I am not alone. There is so much hype out there saying just the opposite.

  11. Cynthia, Awesome article. I was a one chocolate bar a day girl until very recently. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and high cholesterol. In making a drastic diet change, before opting for drugs, I was able to lower both levels to a level that is no longer of great concern to my doctor. During the process I also had intollerence testing done. One of the findings was an intollerance to raw cacao. My question is whether this means that chocolate is a complete no-no for me?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Thanks Petra. Glad you enjoyed.

      In regard to an intolerance for cacao, it depends. On most food intolerance testing it is broken down into three categories. Mild, Moderate and Severe intolerance. If your intolerance falls within the moderate category the food must be avoided for about 3 months before reintroduction. If it is severe then it should be avoided for 6 months before reintroduction. If it is in the mild category, the food can be consumed as long it is rotated every 4 days. However, these are general guidelines and real life may not always play out in this way.

      So, at a minimum the food needs to be eliminate for a period of time. However, sometimes one never gets over the sensitivity.

      On the other hand, it’s also important to be aware that food intolerance is a symptom of a problem in the gut and/or the autonomic nervous system. You should take a look at the following post:

      Also, keep in mind that cacao has a stimulating effect on the body and triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response system) and it is inflammatory to the gut by nature. This is true regardless of whether you have an intolerance or not. So it should be limited regardless.


  12. Wow Cynthia…thank you so much for the vast amount of information you provide. I have battled a sugar and chocolate addiction all my life. I began adding raw cacao to my smoothies again recently. After just a couple of days, I began having that all too familiar feeling of alarm in my stomach-the fight or flight sensation. After reading just a little I see that I have much more research and diet revamping to do. Again, thank you for providing such complete in depth information. Fascinating.

  13. Hi Cynthia,

    I suffer with candida and I was doing a search on cocoa and if it was allowed on the candida diet and found your site. I’m so glad I did! It is very informative and I don’t think I will eat chocolate ever again!

    I’m writing to you for some advice regarding 12-year-old son. He has ADHD and has a crazy addiction to chocolate and everything sweet! I suspect he has candida as he has all the symptoms. I probably passed it on to him whilst giving birth as I had always suffered with vaginal thrush which was probably due to the candida which I had no idea I had until about a year ago, or maybe he got it from the steroid medication he took as a baby for bronchiolitis. He’s only ever taken antibiotics a few times but maybe that was enough, I don’t know. Anyway, I really want to limit his sugar intake but that’s very hard to do with a 12-year-old hyperative child. I don’t buy as many sweets/chocolates anymore but I know he shouldn’t be eating any at all. How can I deprive him? He is always hungry and looking in the fridge for something to eat.

    He loves pasta but I don’t cook it anymore, he does not like rice (white or brown), and he does not eat vegetables. He likes potatoes but these are also not allowed on the candida diet. He won’t eat brown bread only white. I’m stuck on how to provide him with a healthy, nutritional diet.

    Could you give me some advice on ways of eliminating sugar from his diet, and also should it be eliminated completely? I would also really appreciate if you could give me some advice regarding his nutrition.

    Thank you

  14. Hello.. Thank you so so much for this post! I have craved sugar and chcoolate for years, and for many years ate a little very day. This past year my one year old who is still nursing started having awake times for 2 hours pretty much every night in the middle of the night.. I also developed even worse sleeps and eventually chronic insomnia. I finally figured out it was chcolate causing the problem for both of us! It was very confusing since many superfood activist say it is so healthy!
    My Question is, since I have probably harmed my nervouse system a lot from years of eating the stuff.. and for my daughter having overstimulated sleep over a whole year, what can we do to heal (besides the obvious taking the cocoa out completely?).. I apprecieate your help!!

  15. What a great post!! I have just finished writing my own entry about chocolate in my blog. I would love it that you read it as well.

    There is always an opportunistic industry who wants to make business out of trendy foods , now is raw chocolate, years ago goji berries… It is so easy to fool people in the subject of food…

  16. I’ve been having trouble falling asleep lately. I have been eating raw cacao everyday – no other caffeine or stimulant. I ate some yesterday around 5:00 PM. When I went to bed at 10:00 I could feel my heart racing and my body still stimulated. I am excited to quit my “healthy” raw organic cacao and hope to report that I’m sleeping well again.

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Leslie, you should be sleeping better again soon, unless your neurotransmitters have become imbalanced from the raw cacao. If it doesn’t resolve shortly, then that is the problem.


  17. Helly Cynthia,

    I feel pretty discouraged right now :-/ Someone told me that raw cacao would help my daughter. The doctors think she might be slightly autistic or at least ADD/ADHD. I don’t want her to be tested because I do not want them to give her any of their chemicals. So, when a friend suggested I try raw cacao because of the neurotransmitters and “bliss” chemicals, I figured I would give it a shot. She can struggle with boundaries at school; when to keep her hands to herself, struggles with concentration, struggles to sit still. She is never violent, but she can become quite emotional. So, her behavior chart is always on “needs improvement” or worse. Today was day two. Now I feel incredibly guilty for giving her this drink (it was a raw cacao drink with maca, spirulina, and other stuff). I have been drinking it for quite sometime now and have noticed the rapid heart beats periodically, so I know when I have over done it. The next time, I just make sure to use less, but now I’m even questioning that. I don’t give her much, but like the article says… it is better to not give any at all. I guess what my question is, what can I do for her. She is such a wonderful and happy girl, I just want the rest of the world to know her the way I do…

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Rissa,

      Raw cacao is not the answer for ADHD, autism, or any other health condition. As a matter of fact, it will ultimately make the ADHD or autism worse, because it will deplete the neurotransmitters in the brain even more that are already depleted causing the conditions.

      ADHD and autism are corrected by addressing the underlying causes. My son had severe ADHD when he was a child. So severe, that I could barely handle him and had to be held back in first grade. I improved his condition by about 90% simply by making changes in diet and living green. He became a completely different person almost over night.

      The underlying causes of ADHD and autism are many, including candida overgrowth, depletion of neurotransmitters, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities and environmental toxins.

      You should take a look at the following pages for more information

      You should also read, “Is This Your Child” and “Our Toxic World,” by Dr. Doris Rapp.

      Although those pages were written for ADHD, all the same would apply for autism. May want to take a look at Jenny McCarthy’s book, “Mother Warriors,” as well.

      If you need more personal guidance, I offer consultations by phone.


  18. Hi Cynthia, last week I ordered a bag of a delicious ground, roasted cocoa bean drink which claims to give me long lasting energy, anti-oxidants etc etc etc. I don’t drink coffee anymore because it makes me anxious so I thought I’d give this a go… I’m always tired running around after two small children. Before I received the bag, I opened my recipe book called ‘the bittersweet world of chocolate’ which along with recipes gives information about chocolate, where it comes from and how it is processed. I read that there is a fermentation stage where the bean sits under leaves in the sun for a few days which removes the bitterness from the bean. Five days after beginning to drink this delicious drink, my good friend thrush has returned with a vengeance after a 10 month absence. I’ve put two and two together and worked out that cocoa of any kind and candida don’t mix and I assume that the less refined the cocoa, the worse it probably is because of proportions ie roasted cocoa beans = 100% cocoa compared to chocolate = lower % of cocoa mixed with milk and sugar. Although, all these are quite nasty for Candida sufferers. However, thrush infections don’t seem to flare up as much with regular dairy milk chocolate as they have with this product. I did a little google search and came across your blog which has opened my eyes up to what I think I knew but was trying to ignore! Junkie!!

    On another topic you covered in one of your responses, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I find it extremely difficult to truly change my way of thinking about my children’s diet. I was brought up on diet of bread, pasta, rice, meat, veg, fruit, homemade cakes etc. In the eyes of most people, the diet I was brought up on was a good, balanced one but I’m not so sure. I try to feed my children what I think is good for them instead of what I’ve been programmed to eat. However I always feel conflict about it because of all the information available, and often my brain becomes so tired with trying to do the best thing for my babies that I don’t end up doing anything at all and end up feeding them things I know are not all that beneficial. On top of that most people resist when you adjust your diet away from the mainstream. I suppose a good diet is something we must just keep trying to attain and read things like your blog to keep us inspired and on track.

  19. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

    Some good insights, Skye.

    Yes, indeed, information overload can make one paralyzed.

    The key to break conditioning from society is to keep filling your mind with the truth. You must make a conscious effort to reinforce the healthy thinking by associating with the right sources.

    In addition to my blog, you should be reading the work of Dr. Al Sears, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Michael Eades and Mark’s Daily Apple. However, even many of them will tell you that it is okay to eat chocolate. So, one must learn to follow the truth of their own inner voice as well.


  20. I’m so glad I found this useful article!!

    My husband and I have been Paleo for about three weeks now and we’e already started to see some wonderful results! I read that cacao was supposed to be really good for you and yes all the Paleo/Primal cookbooks recommend it. So I thought I’d give it a whirl. Well I must have only consumed about a tablespoon of it (mixed with coconut and drizzled on a banana) and I had a very restless night.
    This morning I woke up with pretty acute left kidney pain, which continued to get worse. I decided to drink a bunch of water instead of rushing off to the ER (which was plan B). My kidney pain has pretty much disappeared since I woke up. I wasn’t experiencing any of the other symptoms of kidney stones/ infection and nothing I ate today or yesterday was out of the ordinary, I also tend to keep very hydrated. I’m convinced it was the cacao. That stuff is the worst!

  21. Hello, your article was a big relief for me and explains a lot that has been happening in my organism lately.
    I don’t like coffe. Since I was a kid, I hated the smell of coffee. So the next best thing was herbal tea (I am in Greece, so all I have to do is find a mountain and pick some) I didn’t drink black or green tea at all, I used various herbs insted. No problems with that, for many many years.
    I knew about raw cocoa, but I drank it only occasionaly. About two years ago, I started to drink it more systematically, every couple of days, or sometimes every day. A nice hot cup at the office, or out with the girlfriends. If you add a chockolate bar every now and then, you understand my case.
    So, about a month ago, I started to have serious toothaches, caused by stress. My jaws were (and still are) so tense, that cause me pain. I had to have a mouth guard made, which I wear at nights. Recently I remembered a discussion I had with my uncle (he is a herbalist) about the problems cocoa causes. You affirmed all I knew, but had forgotten about. Thank you.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of the addiction without the cocoa “junkie” symptoms?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Katerina,

      You’re welcome. The way you overcome any addiction is to restore balance to disrupted brain chemistry, which is what drives one to use mind-altering substances. This is achieved by eating a proper diet, which is the Paleo diet, and a variety of lifestyle changes and perhaps a variety of supplements. I have written about addiction numerous times on the site, if you use the search function at the top of all my pages for the term chocolate or addiction you can find a lot of free information.

      Alternatively, you can find what you need to know in the following book.


  22. I’m so glad I read this article. I’ve been having two teaspoons of cacao a day in my banana smoothie since mid Feb and in trying to be healthy I’ve made myself so sick, physically and mentally. Until I read this I didn’t know that Cacao is the cause.

    I’ve had nausea, panic attacks, insomnia, increased heart rate, paranoia. I’ve had an ECG, every test under the sun and am now going to a psychologist. It was bad timing with a stressful job and sick child I thought it was just stress as anxiety and OCD run in my family. But this was something different. Feeling like someone is sitting on my chest, and paranoia and severe headaches? It’s only been really bad since trying a different brand of powder. I switched 5 days ago and this is the worst I’ve felt. In the 3 wks I’ve stopped drinking alcohol and coffee and am back to eating paleo. After eating clean for 3 wks and still feeling terrible I knew something wasn’t right. Hence why I made the connection. Cacao is the only thing I’ve introduced in my diet Since feeling this way.

    Once again thank you for this article. I feel sick to the stomach knowing something that can be publicised as being so good for us is in fact so bad. I’ll be going to be GP Monday to tell her that I’m not going crazy, it’s the stupid CACAO POWDER!

  23. Really appreciate your website. I have had a serious problem with not sleeping because I have Narcolepsy and high cortisol. I can see that removing cacoa intake could be part of my healing. Any other suggestions for a person with Narcolepsy getting better sleep? Thanks. Peg

  24. Julie Rosenthal

    I first read this article about a month ago. And I thought it was ridiculous. I love chocolate. I am a sugar addict. I’m on Paleo and I have celiac disease and I have been told raw chocolate/powder is healthy so I have been consuming large amounts for about a year. In this year I have had more health issues then I can imagine. I went allergy testing, had an endoscopy, chest X-rays etc for heaviness in chest and often half my face swells up gets numb hives and the worst inflamed chin acne. I had none of this prior to raw cacao. But I did not piece it together and I was never tested for chocolate. I also have a sensitivity to tree nuts. It’s actually the same auto immune response. Last night I had raw cacao and my stomach was killing but I didn’t connect it. Tnite I was at dinner and it started to happen again but all I ate was veggies! Regardless I had to take a Benadryl. When I got home I had another square of 90% raw chocolate and as I was eating it and while on the Benadryl it happened again and worse. My whole mouth swelled, and my face I got so scared!! I had to take another allergy medication. I think I am allergic to raw cacao!!!! So naturally I pop online and type in allergies to raw cacao and your article came up. This time I thought it was so educational and spot on. There are many other mystery symptoms I have had like unexplained migraines, acute anxiety, insomnia for months!! And many more. Thank you for posting this I thought raw chocolate was healthy!!

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      You’re welcome, Julie. Congrats on seeing the light. Yes, sometimes we have to hear the message several times before we really hear it or connect the dots when learning new information, especially when it goes against the status quo.


  25. For every seemingly well-informed site saying to do or eat X, there is a seemingly well-informed site saying absolutely do NOT do or eat X. Even Mercola seems into dark chocolate; for example. How does one ever sort out all the information?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Well Peter, as mentioned above we have to look at the overall nutritional value of a food, not just whether it has one or two potential benefits. In the case of chocolate or raw cacao, I think it is pretty clear cut that the bad outweighs the good.

      I think one of my favorite quotes sums it up pretty good.

      “Americans love to hear good things about their bad habits.”
      ~T. Colin Campbell


  26. I’m here because today I had a whole bunch of raw cacao and now in bed I am overcome with extreme alertness and paranoia. I just can’t sleep.

    I’m 10 days into a paleo diet and this is the only aberation so far, otherwise it’s been great.

    This is quite unusual and in light of this I am not surprised to be reading this. I’ll certainly be crossing cacao and all chocolate off my list.

    Thanks for clarifying this.

  27. Hi Cynthia,
    I read your article about raw cacao and I agree what is written in there. I had no idea about the bad side effects when eating it regularly until I started having anxiety and felt like my brain wasn’t as crazy that might sound. And one day it clicked in my head. I ate it for about 2 months and I would like to ask you if you know how long these substances stay in your system and if stop eating that and a normal chocolate will make it go away? I feel better after stop eating it but still have moods, weird thoughts, poor concentration.
    And how it is possible it is sold without any warnings? 🙁

    Thank you in advance

    Kind regards,

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Velveteen,

      I apologize for the delay in responding to you. Your comment got lost in the shuffle of spam comments that I receive.

      I can’t say how long it will take to feel better. It shouldn’t take that long to clear it from your system. However, that doesn’t mean symptoms will go away right away. It disrupts the autonomic nervous system and depletes neurotransmitters, and once the autonomic nervous system is in a hyper sensitive state and neurotransmitters are depleted it takes a lot of work to restore balance. Furthermore, people who respond to chocolate and raw cacao with severe negative symptoms typically have other problems going on that makes the autonomic nervous system more sensitive. You should read the following page for information on steps that can be taken to restore balance.

      Well, there are numerous foods out there that are harmful that aren’t required to have any labeling. That is the sad state of affairs in regard to our food supply.

      At the bottom of the article above, I list quite a few references that support what I have stated.


  28. Thanks for your info – the truth summed up in a nutshell that I didn’t want to admit to b/c I’m addicted to raw chocolate and coffee. You have helped me quit, along with my worsening health symptoms that I know are related to consuming those. Ok so I will just be sleepy and a little depressed, out of it for a while without it. I can deal with that. But do you have any ideas of what to put in my pea protein “shakes” besides chocolate? Its not really palatable without it, and I need the low-cost protein. I don’t like fruit in it. Vanilla is way too expensive. I guess I can try cinnamon or coconut next. any other ideas?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Ginny,

      You’re welcome. Glad this helped you address your addiction. I’m sorry I don’t have any ideas for the pea powder. I am not in favor of protein powder unless someone has some amino acid deficiencies they are addressing, and even then it should be temporary. Protein should be derived from animal protein and eaten as a whole food, not concentrated in a drink. (including post work out meals)


  29. Hello Cynthia – quite an eye-opening article – yikes!
    Was wondering if you have any data on the chemicals in cacao butter? I was wondering if it was less harmful than the cacao powder? I am partial to a raw caramel chocolate that uses cacao butter, cashews and coconut sugar.

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Jane,

      Cacao is cacao. For the most part, it doesn’t matter what form it takes, the effects mentioned above are going to occur. However, the raw form is more potent.


  30. This article came at the right time – thank you.
    I’m currently on the candida diet and have been turning to cacao to consume as a “rare sugar free treat” but recently it has now turned into a daily addiction. I make myself a cacao treat every evening and now I have trouble sleeping, rashes on my fingers and have an overreactive bladder. Your article has given me a wake up call.

  31. Oh my. I keep thinking I’m doing healthy things, but learn I continue to do myself in. This is depressing. I have a daily smoothie that contains both cacao powder and cacao nibs. I’ve been off coffee for a year and a half, stopped refined sugar at the beginning of June; little to no dairy, but have been juicing with kale and spinach. I was recently diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and hypothyroid autoimmune, which I’m trying to correct with the aid of a naturopathic doctor. I’m now off gluten. Stopped the juicing because kale and spinach must be cooked and not eaten in raw form. I am constantly adjusting my diet. It’s overwhelming because I truly, TRULY, keep thinking I’m doing good things. There is SO much conflicting information out there. Okay, suck it up, Buttercup. We start fresh again. Out goes the cacao. 🙁

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Valll,

      Yeah, refining the diet is an ongoing and lifelong process. And yes, it can be maddening with all the misinformation that is passed around. But, you’ve got the right attitude. LOL We just have to suck it and start again.


  32. Wondering if there is any exception with Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof brand chocolate powder that has supposedly been put through a very selective process and lab tasted to bear none of the toxins that most cacao’s do?


    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Kay,

      No, it wouldn’t really make any difference. Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof chocolate is removing the mycotoxin content (toxins produced by mold), which eliminates only “one” of the problems. Eliminating the mycotoxins does not change the fact that chocolate contains hundreds of naturally occurring mind-altering chemicals that are addictive, can increase glutamate and histamine levels and lead to all the problems we have discussed on this page.



  33. I decided to stop consuming raw cacao a couple days ago due to suspicions about the negative effects it might be having on my health. I have been consuming quite a bit on a daily basis in my smoothies for an awhile, and now that I’ve stopped cold turkey i’m having some pretty intense withdrawal symptoms. After reading this article I can see why. Any idea how long it takes to detox from this stuff?

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Nick,

      Sorry for the delay in response, you are likely doing better by now. However, for future reference …

      It is hard to say. The worst of it should subside in about a week or so, but may take 30 days to complete. However, there can be many long-term effects that could linger indefinitely. If doesn’t get better in month, then may want to consider things on the following page.



  34. Thank you so much for providing information about the possible side effects of raw cacao powder. I have advanced lupus and I’m on immunsuppressant drugs to help control control symptoms. I’ve been hospitalized a few times due to overstimulation of the immune system resulting from inflammation gone out of control which resulted in infections that have lead to necessary surgery. On top of this, fybromyalgua symptoms are present if an out of control lupus flare occurs. When this takes place, I’m at my absolute worst and am miserable from head to toe. Eating a healthy diet, taking good care of myself and watching my stress levels are crucial in maintaining and managing any disease. I recently purchased a Nutribullet and it came with a coup,e of recipe books. Raw cacao powder was a listed ingredient in many Nutriblast (smoothie) recipes and I wondered what it might do to my body if ingested. After visiting my local health store and seeing the high cost of raw cacao powder, I conferred with a store employee who told me that cacao helped balance hormones in the body. which promoted towards good health. She was unable to tell me, however, if cacao powder stimulated the immune system even though I already suspected the correct answer. After doing more research and coming across your website, I am happy that I didn’t add this ingredient to any of my smoothies because with any overstimulation of my nervous system, I tend toI go into an immediate lupus flare. Continual usage of cacao would have more than likely led to infection(s) and possible surgery at a later date. Thank you so much for educating me on raw cacao powder and I urge everyone to research any advertised healthy food iproduct before putting it into your body because it may be harmful instead of helpful to your system. This is especially important to those of us who have food sensitivities and/or compromised immune systems.

  35. How long does it take the body to recover from a 2-4 year daily 85%-100% cacao habit? Is exercise, then, truly the only healthy, sustainable way to get that jolt we all crave?

    I am currently experiencing intense withdrawals as a result of cutting back on cacao. Inability to digest, tension headaches, anhedonia, lethargy, lack of appetite, you name it.

    As soon as I indulge in a piece of 100% baking bar it all goes away.


  36. Great article, I feel your information is very much correct. I was recently given as a gift a bag of cacao powder which this morning I added some to my morning green smoothie and around 4 o’clock a migraine started to which I have not had a migraine like this in probably 10 years. I remember the feeling of this sort of migraine well because way back when I used to not eat as clean, my diet included coffee and chocolate and wheat, this was the type of headache I used to get on a regular basis. To substantiate the theory I did a quick search on the web for cacao and headache and it led me to a number of articles very much like yours . So I certainly hope people that read your article believe in your assembly of what I believe is very good information. Thank you! Frank

  37. OY!What an epic bamboozlement these so called health food corporations have done us!Wow, the clarity and research of your article horrified and helped me,Thank you for your steadfast tell it like it is ness
    whatta HEALTH FOOD /SUPPLEMENT mine field we are trudging accross. All the conflicting info’s and notions, what a challenge to be able to figure out whats real and whats not!Thank you for your article.

  38. Thankyou. Very helpful. Won`t be reintroducing cocoa into my diet, then. I had been considering it, even though I tried a very little recently and had anger management issues the next day.

  39. Thank you! Your article confirmed what my brain was telling me. I used to be involved with a magnesium group that promoted dark chocolate. I was practically vilified when I explained to them how chocolate (especially dark chocolate) made me severely depressed and gave me horrific anxiety. I was not taken seriously. The group kept promoting it. Many people remained stuck. I left the group and avoid chocolate. I have no control over it. Once I start, can’t stop eating it until it’s gone. I continued to eat it long after I stopped enjoying it. I no longer wish to have anything have that much power over me.

  40. Yes yes yes ! Thanku for this article To me its right on. I have lots of health problems from ibs to endometreosis and im healing myself through paleo diet and lots of rest and prayer I cant eat any chocolate. Milk chocolate bloats me and dark chocolate gives me heavhaces and nausea and now i know why! I wont be eating them my body hates it ! So thankyou :). Also have you heard of anyone healing endometreosis with paleo? All i read about is vegan or vegatarian diet to cure it but i cant eat those ways they bloat me. Thanks !!

  41. Hi Cynthia,

    Congratulations for your complete and clear information about this drug called chocolate. You know, I know a lot about these kind of subjtes, even I am writting a book, but I didnt know “nothing” about chocolate, as you do. Thanks and take care…


  42. Dear Cythnia,
    I really appreciate your efforts to make this article. I just noticed that I have leaky gut about three months ago. I love to eat chocolate even though I know that chocolate bar contains sugar, wheat, casein/milk, artificial flavors and are contaminated with heavy metals (which all are highly inflammatory). So recently I have thinking or considering buying cacao power, cacao butter etc. to make my own chocolate. But thanks so much. I am not going to do it.

    I also don’t quite understand why I have insomnia, heart palpitation, joint pain, alertness, dizziness and skin problem after I eat chocolate. I never really have these kind of problem until I have leaky gut. Now I understand.
    Last year, I had an organic pack of cacao. I ate it all by myself. I had serious brain issue which I did not correlate that the raw cacao contributed to my issues.
    I will print your article and stick it on places to remind myself not to eat chocolate again. Million thanks again. Annie

  43. I was just drinking my daily (sometimes 2x) glass of hot raw cacao, and I am almost finished the bag. I had a strong taste of mold in one sip, so I started searching the ole interweb which brought me here. I am sad to say that I have been aware that I am addicted to this raw cacao ( and since it’s supposed to be so healthy, refused to really pay attention to how terrible it actually makes me feel), and quickly over the last two months since I have had this bag. I guess this explains my migraines, indigestion and most notable, irrational irritability, anxiety and depression that has spiralled in the last two months.. Of course drinking the cacao lifts me out of it, for a bit, but I have been so speedy I feel like I am a rocket ship that is about to take off…very unpleasant.

    Thank you for the wake-up call, now let’s see how long I can stop for.

    Any suggestions on effectively kicking this habit?

  44. Thankyou for the information I have leaky gut and have been eating my home made date balls use img cocao powder almond meal dates coconut oil and ect .. And never feel to well have a lot of sleep problems.. I’ll stop now can I substitute for something else

  45. Hello, would you PLEASE answer this question for me. I have tried researching for the answer and not come up with anything definitive. Is “raw cacao” fermented or not?

    Thank you.

  46. Thank you for debunking this. I guess I not only believed all this media hype, but since i wasn’t gaining weight although indulging every day, I thought it was OK. Im not OK and found this by searching the possible causes. I have been eating 1/2 a bar of 86% dark choclate for 4 years now. Every day. Im 10% bodfat. but my energy levels have declined over these years despite being an accomplished, fit CrossFit athlete. Add to this a daily habit of 2 coffees, poor sleep, and a nervous type temperament, i can see now that my indulgences although not leading to weight gain have had severe consequences. I will from today take a long break from coffee and chocolate, but i wonder since its been so many years that my energy will correct itself or i need more intervention and if so, from who and how? Any help is great, thank you very much.

  47. Very good read and information, thank you so much Cynthia. You have a great way of cutting to the chase and avoiding emotive dribble.
    I recently bought raw cacao after using small amounts of cocoa powder in fruit/nut deserts. The cocoa’s caffeic acid slowed digestion as I’m on now a super high fiber diet and have motile bowel tendencies anyway, and glued things together also with a mild drug like crutch as I was transitioning from other harder habits. However, even at small doses, raw cacao was very bad for my vulnerable genetic disposition. I think the heating that occurs when it becomes cocoa does destroy some of the harmful components. In a way it was a blessing in disguise to up to raw cacao then crash, as I dont need cocoa anymore due to further distance from past habits, and am now transitioned to a better space. Never again!

  48. Thank you. In the last paragraph, the “take a look at this” link actually leads to an article about ketosis. If that is ever fixed, I wonder if I could be informed by email…. I was hoping to read the article about addiction. Nevertheless I’m grateful for the information presented.

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Donna,

      I’m sorry about that. I was not aware the link was going to the wrong place. Thanks for letting me know. It is fixed now.

  49. I’ve never had a problem with chocolate either dark or normal but recently I started eating raw dark chocolate bars because of the supposed health benefits. I actually found it to be quite a massive stimulant, I felt alert when I hadn’t had much sleep but not jittery during the day. However at night I couldn’t sleep, every time I felt myself nodding off I was jolted awake and felt like I was having a panic attack because of a weird sensation and felt like I was going to pass out. This went on for weeks before I figured out what was causing it. After stopping taking it the symptoms went away in a couple of days.

    But it was awful, I can’t tell you how bad that sinking feeling as I was falling asleep was, it literally felt like I was becoming unconscious and felt dizzy then I’d get an adrenaline rush and and my heart would race, nasty stuff.

  50. This and your article about carob are amazing. It’s the final confirmation I need to put that chocolate addiction behind me! 🙂

  51. Well i found this after typing up does chocolate cause vertigo because i have been noticing that when i drink my cocoa which i make from dark cocoa powder iv’e been getting severe vertigo which i already deal with and can’t drink alcohol either but it was getting severe after drinking actually even while drinking the cocoa before i’d be finished i’d get dizzy and brain whooshing with the eyes kind of fluttering, like when you are coming down the roller coaster ride from up high at that very high velocity and your head is barely staying attached. I’m sure it’s the cocoa but had to look it up since like you said it’s supposed to be so good for you also something i noticed is that chocolate, any type of chocolate causes depressive thinking almost instantly,maybe it’s the sugar? but i am addicted to chocolate so do not buy it at all that’s why i thought the cocoa could be a good idea but obviously not.

  52. Thank you so much for this info! I started using raw cacao everyday for several months, and was enjoying the taste and the energy boost. I tend to be a “happy” person and never feel the need for drugs/ alcohol, but cacao was promoted as “super food” and good for the heart/ I am always trying to eat healthy and my friends were really into it- so decided to try it. But then there were a few days when I felt horribly depressed for no real reason and then I realized that on those days I had skipped my cacao drink. The depression was quickly alleviated by a few squares of dark chocolate or raw cacao drink. Looking on the internet there are so many sites promoting the benefits of cacao, that I was thinking it must be in my mind. But seriously- the days I didn’t have cacao reminded me of how I felt after stopping narcotic pain killers after a surgery- complete sadness for no reason.
    So now, after reading your article, I understand what is really going on. I am going to throw out all the cacao in the house (and office- ha- thats a sign of addiction right) and try to move through withdrawals. Thank You again for writing the truth!!

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