With a name that translates directly to “the food of the gods”, Theobroma cacao, better known to us as “chocolate,” has been enjoyed for millennia as everything from a bitter brewed tea to a creamy cold treat on summer afternoons.
In addition to its rich history, dark chocolate comes with an extensive list of health benefits, including cancer-fighting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent cardiovascular disease.
With all of these qualities, combined with its luscious flavor, it’s no wonder that one of the first questions asked by those thinking about an animal-friendly lifestyle is “can vegans eat chocolate?”
The answer is an overwhelming YES!
Even in neighborhood grocery stores, there is a practically endless list of resources for vegan chocoholics, with everything from vegan versions of a favorite childhood candy bar to rich and creamy plant-based ice creams, complete with ribbons of fudge and big chocolate chunks.
Get your taste buds ready.
With a few simple guidelines in mind; you’ll be well on your way to satisfying your sweet tooth the kind way!
The World of Chocolate: An Overview
While the world of chocolate is a vast one, a quick trip down the candy aisle groups most chocolates into one of three categories:
Dark Chocolate: Characterized by a high percentage of cacao and a deep, sophisticated flavor, dark chocolate is the healthiest and most vegan-friendly option out there, given its high concentration of antioxidants, low sugar, and lack of dairy products.
White Chocolate: Despite the name, “white chocolate” isn’t technically a “chocolate” at all, as it does not include the required addition of cocoa solids, resulting in a creamy white color. However, much like tomatoes are technically a fruit but eaten mostly as a vegetable, white chocolate just makes more sense grouped here! White chocolate sometimes includes dairy products, so be sure to check the label.
Milk: Somewhere in between dark and white chocolate, milk chocolate is the combination of cocoa solids, milk products, and sugar. Unless there is specific wording on the package stating that plant-based milk is used, milk chocolate is rarely vegan-friendly.
On the whole, those choosing a vegan lifestyle should opt for dark chocolate, as it rarely contains any animal products. However, you can quickly check whether or not your favorite chocolate is animal-friendly with a quick scan of the ingredients list.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
Dairy products can sneak in under all kinds of clever names.
In addition to ingredients containing the word “milk”, vegans should steer clear of products with the following words appearing in the ingredients list:
whey, casein, or lactose, which are all milk derivatives
“Contains milk” included in the allergen information
A cholesterol level greater than 0%, as cholesterol is only found in
Despite its name, cocoa butter is 100% dairy-free and vegan.
It is made from the fatty portion of the cocoa bean and is responsible for giving chocolate that sinful melt-in-your-mouth quality.
Look for chocolates with a short ingredients list, which will indicate a healthier and higher-quality product.
But What’s Wrong with Milk?
At this point, you might feel confused. “I understand the ethical problems with meat,” you say, “but why dairy?
The animal isn’t killed for milk, so what’s the big deal?”
Let’s take a quick trip back to biology class. We know that humans are mammals, and as a result, only produce milk when they are nourishing a baby. Women don’t walk around for their whole lives lactating.
Cows are also mammals, and therefore, can only produce milk when they give birth. To get this process started, a dairy cow is impregnated through a process called artificial insemination.
When she gives birth to her calf, they are separated – after all, the dairy industry is a business, and the calf cannot be left to consume the milk that will eventually be sold to humans.
Dairy cows will go through this process continuously throughout their short lives, and once they are no longer able to produce milk (“spent”), they will be sent to slaughter.
If the calf is a female, she will follow in her mother’s footsteps and be forced into this cycle.But the real horror of the dairy industry comes with what happens when the unfortunate calf is born male.
A male calf serves as the link to a product even many meat-eaters boycott due to the cruel nature of its production – veal. The male calf, useless to the dairy industry for his inability to produce milk, will spend his five-month life in a crate so small he is unable to turn around, walk, stand, or lay down. He will be fed a liquid diet which, combined with his sedentary lifestyle, will keep his body weak for the purpose of keeping the meat tender.
For many people, this connection comes as a surprise – and with such a terrible cycle, is it any surprise the connection between dairy and veal is kept a secret?
Luckily, there is a way to end this cruelty.
By making the choice to consume vegan products and sending a message with our money, we have the ability to make a kinder, gentler world for animals and people.
And with so many delicious dairy-free options available all over the world, compassion has never been easier.
Kindness is Sweet
With so many delicious dairy-free options available at nearly every supermarket and convenience store, going vegan doesn’t mean having to give up the little things that make life fun, like ice cream with your family or a candy bar shared with a friend.
Despite its unfair reputation of being difficult or restrictive, the truth is that a vegan diet can be every bit as luscious, decadent, and indulgent as any other way of eating.
There is, without question, a place for chocolate in a plant-based lifestyle – of course, just how big that place is will depend on the size of your sweet tooth!