Eat With Your Dollars: Chocolate

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Oh the joys of a piece of chocolate ... so delicious, so simple, yet so complicated.

Milk, dark, white, bittersweet, semisweet, 50%, 60%, 87% cacao, or raw? What do you choose?

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Let me help make the decision easy for you. After all, your choice has a profound impact on your health, the environment and social economics. Look for "Organic" and "Fair Trade" the next time that chocolate craving hits and here's why:

* Chocolate usually contains dairy, which means that unless it's organic chocolate, you are likely consuming milk from cows that have been conventionally raised with antibiotics and growth hormones.

* It's really hard to find a chocolate these days without the ingredient "soy lecithin," which helps keep chocolate smooth and together. Soy unfortunately is one of the biggest known crops to be genetically modified. Even the sugar chocolate contains can be genetically modified! Organic chocolate by definition cannot contain genetically modified ingredients. And if you don't know why you should avoid genetically modified food, get caught up and check out the resources on Just JustLabelIt.org.

* You will lessen your exposure to pesticides. The cocoa bean, from which chocolate is produced, is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Several pesticides the EPA has allowed for use in chocolate production have been found to show adverse reactions in animals and are considered toxic to human beings.

* Choosing fair trade chocolate is a way for you to vote against child slavery, unsafe working conditions and cycle of poverty that conventional cocoa suppliers allow.

* Hershey's and M&M/Mars alone control two-thirds of the $13 billion U.S. chocolate candy market and are not held accountable for unethical labor practices, despite their knowledge and awareness of the problems. If enough people start buying fair trade chocolate, maybe these companies will start to support fair trade practices and finally be held accountable.

So what's my favorite Eat With Your Dollars chocolate right now? I picked up this beauty. It tastes just like a crunch bar (but better) at Earth Fare last weekend. And yep, you guessed it ... every bite of that organic and fair trade chocolate is already gone!

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A management consultant by day and food activist blogger by night, Vani Hari has been featured here on CL's 2012 Lust List, the Charlotte Observer, and the New York Times. She has made it her mission to spread as much information about what is in food as well as how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store and how to live an organic lifestyle on her blog Foodbabe.com.

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