This food brings multiple benefits to the body if consumed in moderation, but contains a toxic metal that comes from the subsoil and reaches the cocoa beans
It is one of the most irresistible foods out there. Chocolate continues to be one of the star ingredients in all ice creams, cakes and shakes. A product that, despite being frowned upon in weight loss diets due to the fact that it is often high in sugar, also has great health benefits if consumed in moderate doses.
One of its best-known properties is that it is a great source of antioxidants and rich in polyphenols or flavonoids, compounds that improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It also happens to have anti-aging powers that prevent the early appearance of wrinkles, especially dark chocolate, since most of these benefits can be found in the cocoa bean, its raw material.
By having very deep roots, cacao trees absorb cadmium from the subsoil and spread it throughout the trunk until it reaches the beans
However, it also has certain chemical components that can be toxic to the body, without going any further, cadmium. Recent research published in the ‘Journal of Environmental Quality‘ carried out by scientists from Ecuador and Belgium is looking for a way to reduce the amount of this toxic metal that is being present in many of the cacao trees of Latin America, ends in many of the grains from which chocolate is made. Exposure to cadmium can lead to diarrhea, vomiting or kidney disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The cadmium issue threatens the livelihood of farmers because their products may not be suitable for trade and some buyers would prefer not to buy polluted cacao beans,” says David Argüello, a member of the research team. “In order to find an effective mitigation strategy, we have to understand how cacao plants takes up the element,” says David Argüello, a member of the team that has carried out the research in an article from the magazine ‘Eat This Not That‘. “To find an effective strategy we must first understand how cocoa plants absorb this element.”
The key is on the ground. By having very deep roots, trees absorb the cadmium present in the subsoil and spread it throughout the trunk until it reaches the grains. Something that does not happen, for example, with other plants such as corn or sunflowers. What is the most common formula to end this problem? According to the researchers, adding lime, an element present in limestone, which helps prevent the roots of plants from sucking up cadmium.
However, the cacao tree cannot be mixed or treated with lime because that prevents them from being replanted. In one of the experiments, the scientists added lime to the upper and deeper layers of soil containing cocoa beans in a greenhouse. The result? The team found less of this toxic metal in the leaves, although obviously this treatment cannot be carried out in the open field. Still, the researchers are convinced to discover an alternative way to remove cadmium from such trees within a few years.
How to enjoy chocolate without being harmful to the body or using it as a respite in weight-loss diets? First of all, experts recommend that it only be consumed with 70% or more cocoa, if possible without added milk or sugar and, above all, forget about the typical industrial products that use it as the main flavor (chocolate Neapolitan, Cereal bars or chocolate bars), which can contain highly processed ingredients and unhealthy fats.