Ask the Dietitian: Iron & Chocolate

Jessica Jones-Hughes
March 23, 2010
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Question: A fellow Equal Exchange chocolate lover pointed out to me the surprisingly high amount of iron per serving, thus giving us an excuse to consume more. How does chocolate get so much iron and is it readily absorbable? - Rachel Tybor in Madison, Wisc.

Excellent question! Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrition problems worldwide, most often present in young women and children. Iron is essential in the diet as it is involved in many important body functions. For example, iron carries oxygen throughout the body helping cells to produce energy. When levels of iron are low, individuals may experience decreased energy levels and weakness. Fortunately, iron is found in many foods and comes in two forms: heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is easier for the body to absorb and is found in foods such as meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is a form of iron that is less absorbable by the body. Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods such as spinach, beans, molasses, quinoa, tempeh, and Equal Exchange chocolate bars.

The main source of iron in our chocolate bars comes from the cacao bean. Although the non-heme iron found in the cacao bean is less absorbed by the body, some iron is still absorbed. You can enhance how much iron your body absorbs by eating foods rich in Vitamin C with your iron-rich foods. Next time you reach for a few pieces of your Equal Exchange chocolate bar (9 squares = 1 serving), eat it with an orange for better absorption. Not only can you feel better about eating chocolate because you are getting helpful vitamins and minerals, but also because the chocolate is organic and fairly traded from small-scale farmer co-operatives - meaning that everyone along the supply chain (even the environment) was fairly treated in the creation of your Equal Exchange chocolate bar.

To learn more on the chocolate industry, check out the BBC documentary, Our World: Bitter Sweet.