Celebrating National Chocolate Week

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Chocolate Week – yes, it’s a real thing. This celebration of all things cocoa runs from 14th to 19th October, acknowledging our love of the rich and indulgent treat. From truffles to Toblerone, brownies to buttons. If you love chocolate, this is the week to get stuck in.

Of course, too much of the stuff can make anyone feel a little poorly. It’s a treat high in fats and sugars and should be enjoyed in moderation, as part of a balanced diet. But what if you already do? If you have good control over your chocolate consumption but find than even modest amounts seem to have an adverse effect, it might be worth taking a closer look at what’s in your favourite treat, and why it might be playing tricks on you.

Firstly, what is chocolate?

It’s easy to take for granted that we know what chocolate is – we eat enough of it after all. Annually, the UK chomps through around 660,900 tonnes of chocolate, equating to around 11kg per person, per year.

But what’s actually in those bars, bags and buttons? Chocolate is made from the “beans” inside cocoa pods which grow in Central and South America. These beans, which are really the plant’s seeds, are dried, roasted, ground and then mixed with other ingredients to sweeten the taste.

What ingredients are mixed with the cocoa beans?

Depending on the desired end product, different amounts of various ingredients are added during production to alter the taste. Cow’s milk is added to create milk chocolate, whereas dark chocolate misses that step.

White chocolate is not technically classed as ‘chocolate’ as it doesn’t contain cocoa solids. Instead, it’s made from a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and a fatty substance called lecithin.

As tastes for chocolate have changed over the years, the variety of flavours available on the market has expanded. Many chocolate bars are made with fruits, nuts, marshmallows, pretzels, biscuit and other ingredients to create interesting flavour combinations.

Can you be intolerant to chocolate?

In a word ‘yes’, but it’s a little more complicated than that. If you think about a bar of chocolate, in terms of something that might cause you problems, you need to consider all the component parts.

While you might think you’re intolerant to chocolate as a whole, it could be any of the ingredients that have gone into making that bar, such as cocoa bean, milk or the fruit, nuts or other added flavours.

Indeed, you might suspect that cocoa beans, or the caffeine contained in them, that gives you headaches, so switch to milk chocolate, not realising it’s actually the dairy causing the discomfort.

What are the symptoms of a chocolate intolerance?

Chocolate intolerance, like any intolerance to a trigger food, involves an inflammatory response where the body mistakes the protein in that ingredient as a threat, sending out antibodies to fight it. This can result in a host of unwanted side effects, such as IBS, bloating, headaches, joint pain, eczema or acne. The delay that commonly occurs with a food intolerance means that you may not feel those ill effects until up to 72 hours after eating your problem food, making it difficult to diagnose the cause.

Do you have to give up chocolate forever?

Fortunately, if you discover that you have an intolerance to something in your favourite treats, it doesn’t mean that they’re off the menu forever.

It’s recommended that you remove those trigger foods from your diet for a period of time, safely replacing them with healthy, nutritious alternatives, until you are able to slowly reintroduce them.

What can I substitute chocolate with?

Thanks to a wider Free From selection on our shelves than ever before, it’s possible to find delicious alternatives for your favourite treats, sure to satisfy those sweet cravings.

If you’re trying to dodge the dairy, and don’t fancy going to the dark side with more cocoa-rich chocolate, there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives available from dedicated Free From brands, catering for a vegan or dairy free diet. Many major manufacturers are also getting in on the action, with Cadbury’s launching their own range this year, 

If it’s the cocoa bean itself you’re trying to avoid, there are different options worth trying. White chocolate, as we mentioned, doesn’t contain cocoa solids, so it might be worth sticking to the milky bars if dairy isn’t a problem for you. Alternatively, carob chocolate might be worth tucking into. Made without any cocoa at all, this substitute uses a legume native to the Mediterranean and Middle East which is believed to also contain a lot of beneficial health-boosting properties.

Ultimately, finding the right substitute for you relies on having the knowledge of exactly which ingredients are causing you problems. That way, you can swap out your trigger foods without losing the ones that don’t cause you any issues.

Take control of your diet

Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. A common recommendation is the elimination diet, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. But this process can take a long time. And, although many of us commonly react to a few different ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.

Get answers faster with Smartblood

When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.

At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods. 

Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days. 

Dedicated nutritional support

Our food intolerance tests include a telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist. This additional support is there to help you understand your results and put a plan together to make safe, sustainable changes to optimise your diet. If you struggle to suppress your sweet tooth, it’s worth chatting with our NT during that consultation to look at good alternatives to work into your diet to balance out your energy and help you feel satisfied.

Could you have a food intolerance?

If you think that food intolerance may be responsible for your symptoms then we believe that our easy-to-complete tests could help you. Find all your food intolerances at once with a full Smartblood test.

Around 10% of our customers exhibit no IgG reactions to the 134 foods whatsoever – we provide non-reactive customers with a 100% REFUND so they can continue their investigations through other testing.

Find out today with Smartblood.

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