So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to try the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or maybe you’re transitioning from the regular Paleo diet, or maybe you’re still thinking about AIP and learning. Regardless, we know that it’s not going to be easy. There are so many restrictions, and perhaps one of the cruelest restrictions of all is NO CHOCOLATE?!? I know—dagger in my heart! Well, don’t panic just yet! You’re going to be ok!
First of all, please remember that AIP is meant to be an elimination diet that you undergo for only a period of time (30 days, 60 days, 6 months…whatever you decide). IT IS NOT FOREVER!
Second, there is a pretty damn tasty way around this “no chocolate” form of cruel and unusual punishment. The answer is CAROB. But more about that later. As a preliminary matter, let’s discuss the reasons why chocolate should be AVOIDED on AIP at first, and then you can decide for yourself!
Even if you’re not going to do AIP, there are reasons you may want to eliminate or moderate your consumption of chocolate and replace it with alternative items…like Carob!
Reasons to AVOID Chocolate while on the elimination part of the AIP diet:
- Phytic Acid: Chocolate is very high in phytic acid. You know, that pesky anti-nutrient that is also present in tree nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds. Just the word “anti-nutrient” makes me want to avoid it! But what this really means is phytic acid can mess with your gut flora and gut barrier by inhibiting digestive enzymes. This makes your gut more permeable and can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria. Not good. More and more research is showing that gut permeability and gut flora issues may be huge culprits in autoimmune issues.
- Caffeine: While chocolate does not contain a ton of caffeine, nevertheless, it does include enough that we should avoid it for the first part of the AIP diet. Caffeine raises cortisol (fight or flight hormone) levels which leads to all kinds of problems that can affect your sleep, digestion, and even mood. It can make you depressed. It can also cause your immune system to flare up (hello, autoimmune disease) and elevated cortisol levels lead to higher stress levels. Depression, added stress, on top of an already stressful autoimmune disease – no thanks.
- High Fat: Chocolate is high in fat, and as with anything in life, if you eat too much, you might gain weight. While I definitely believe fat is phat and NOT the devil, moderation is key.
- Lack of Nutrient Density: Have you read all those articles entitled: “6 reasons chocolate is good for you,” or “8 reasons to eat more chocolate.” And then they start talking about about antioxidants, minerals, and some other BS because…well, you want to eat more chocolate, and they are telling you what you want to hear. These are probably the same people who tell you drinking more wine will allow you to live longer. Believe me, I loooove chocolate. And I love wine. Chocolate and wine together? Amazing! So I’m really not trying to be the grinch of chocolate (and wine), but come on, do you really believe they are GOOD for you? Of course when I’m craving these things I want to believe they are good for me so I can fully indulge without guilt. But I think deep down, we all know it’s not truly good FOR you. In moderation, chocolate may not be “that bad” for you, but “not as bad” does NOT equate to “good for you.” Sorry, folks. Chocolate gives you comfort, temporary happiness, relief, and an escape. But when you compare the nutritional density of chocolate with may other foods on the AIP diet, chocolate just can’t compete. You’re consuming near empty calories.
- Gluten Cross-Reaction: A cross-reaction can happen when your body starts to mis-identify certain foods and react as if you’ve consumed gluten. If you can’t tolerate gluten, you may have a problem with chocolate over time. The protein structure of chocolate is similar enough to gluten that it makes it onto the “potentially cross-reactive” list.
- Crappy Chocolate: When you buy a chocolate bar at the store, do you even know if are you eating the real thing? Forget the Hershey Bars and M&M’s…I don’t even think I need to discuss what’s bad about those, considering there are ingredients in them that I can’t pronounce. But I’m talking about the fancy, beautifully packaged bars that you buy at a health food store or a high-end chocolate shop. Even the ones that say 90% Dark Chocolate and taste pretty bitter. Most of these bars include a little bit of pure chocolate, combined with a LOT of things that are far from ideal: sugar, soy, dairy, nuts, other additives. Don’t believe me? Pick up a chocolate bar and sugar (in some form) will probably be one of the first 3 ingredients listed. That means the product is high in that ingredient (FYI ingredients are always listed in the order of highest to lowest amount). It is very rare that you’ll find consumable chocolate in a pure form, without all these detrimental extras.
Well, what is a chocolate lover to do with this dire list? If you’ve decided you truly want to pursue AIP and feel better, I really think it’s worth eliminating chocolate for a period of time. I know many, many people that have re-introduced chocolate back into their lives with no problems and stayed in remission with their autoimmune disease. So don’t despair. Especially because in the meantime, there is CAROB!
What is CAROB?
Carob is basically a delectable chocolate substitute! They taste the same! Or pretty darn close. Yes, carob is a bean, which is a legume and not allowed on AIP or Paleo. However, carob powder only uses the POD of the carob bean. Carob has zero caffeine and includes other important micronutrients like:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
All things your body needs. It mimics the taste of chocolate with a fraction of the sugar. And it actually does contain high amounts of antioxidants as well as dietary fiber. It contains zero dairy and has been said to help lower cholesterol. So to sum it up…Carob > Chocolate.
Still on the fence? Well, I decided to put Carob to the test by conducting an experiment on a very small sample…of one. My boyfriend. He LOVES Power Balls. Sometimes I think he’s going to eat me out of business. He loves them all. Blueberry, Snickerdoodle, Vanilla, he can’t get enough. But the one flavor he holds above all others? CHOCOLATE. Always chocolate. Don’t even ask how many he can eat in one sitting.
The other morning, before we went to the gym, I casually offered him a Power Ball as a pre-workout snack to fuel his training. His eyes widened in excitement when he saw the rich, brown-colored, chocolatey-looking Power Ball that I was holding out. He immediately popped it in his mouth with a big smile and chewed…and gulped and smiled. I asked him what he thought of the Power Ball. His response was, “It’s my absolute favorite flavor, I’ve already had a million of these, it’s as good as it always is.” He had no idea it was a CAROB Power Ball!
I fooled my chocoholic boyfriend! Satisfied, I thought to myself: my work is done. Carob for the win!
Deletable, rich, chocolatey taste without the autoimmune issues of chocolate! Carob is a healthy, nutrient-dense substitute for chocolate. It mimics the taste and satisfies any chocolate-lover’s craving.