I Tried “Wellness” Chocolate And Didn’t Puke
Immuno-mushrooms, probiotics, and whatever maca is
I grew up in a household that was an early adopter of today’s wellness craze. My mother touts the benefits of sesame oil massages and yogic breathing techniques and was a healthy-living acolyte long before Gwyneth was GOOP, back when kale had yet to meet a cold press. Though I was hardly deprived, my pleas for candy were met with offers of pears, plums, or perhaps a few soaked almonds instead. As a result, I led a double-life when it came to food, obediently finishing my quinoa and split peas, but secretly spending my allowance on peanut butter M&Ms.
It’s no surprise, then, that today I find myself attracted to the bars of chocolate that line the registers of Park Slope’s bodegas, each with a flashy claim of health-promoting supplements. They appeal equally to the part of me that wants to believe turmeric cures cancer, and the part of me that genuinely believes candy cure existential angst. I decided to give several of them a test-drive to determine if nutrient-rich candy really can impact your wellbeing, or if they’re just chocolate bars that made their way across a yoga-enthusiast PR flack’s desk. Below, the results of my experiments.
YesCacao Karma Mellowl
This chocolate bills itself as “brain food,” so I ate it on the busiest day of my week. If I listed all the superfoods in the ingredients, this would read like Amanda Chantal Bacon’s infamous ‘what I eat in a day’ column for Elle, and that would be plagiarism, so I won’t. A turmeric-colored white chocolate (if I’m being honest, it looked like a formica countertop in a ’70s rental unit), it tasted like a white chocolate ginger cookie that someone would give you at a yoga retreat. With its laundry list of superfood ingredients and a $6 price tag, I expected superpowers, which I did not receive. Still, I made it through an insanely busy day with very little stress, so perhaps it worked.
Vega Maca Chocolate
I’ve heard the taste of Maca described both as similar to an old-school malted milkshake, and similar to a pile of rotting wood shavings. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere between the two: it tastes like a malted milkshake that got left in a hot Ford Focus for a few days. Or maybe a Prius. Still, it’s supposed to be especially beneficial for athletes, so I tried this bar on a day when I lifted weights in the morning and took a 90-minute ballet class in the evening. I ate it before my dance class, and while I was still noticeably fatigued, I had a good class and woke up the next day with very little muscle soreness. I was impressed enough that I’ll probably buy this again.
Sacred Chocolate Immuno-Mushroom
This one had flat-out intimidating ingredients like reishi mushroom, chaga mushroom, cordyceps (trust me on this one-don’t google that) and, and pine pollen. Thankfully, it didn’t taste remotely mushroom-y though it wasn’t the standout of the bunch either. I ate this on a day when I had the sniffles and I woke up the next morning sniffle-free, but given that I often get hay fever in autumn, it may just be that fewer trees were having sex outside my window that day.
Sunbiotic Probiotic Chocolate
This had a much lovelier presentation than you’d expect from any medicinal product, and a truly delicious, complex, not-too-sweet flavor. Seriously, yum. If Jamie Lee Curtis was hocking these, the whole country would be excited to poop. It’s worth noting that its 10 billion live active probiotics per bar is less than many supplements offer, though not an insignificant dose either. As for whether or not it worked, well, I’m not sure if it was the probiotic chocolate or the kale salad I had for dinner, but put it this way: it didn’t NOT work.
GOOD Superfoods Mandarin Orange SCULPT
With an impressive ingredient list of proprietary compounds, it only made sense to save this one for last. The thing is, with the name Mandarin Orange SCULPT (GOOD Superfoods is clearly a fan of erratic capitalization), I wasn’t sure what exactly it was supposed to do. My inquiry to the company was immediately-and helpfully-answered by the CEO: “The Sculpt bar has some very powerful functional ingredients like the GCB Extract and KSM-66 Ashwagandha Extract, CocoaNOURISH®, BC30 Probiotic, etc., all of which support a balanced metabolism. The goal with Sculpt is to support a healthy gut, and drive your metabolism into high gear!” It tasted like a sophisticated version of those chocolate orange balls that British grandmothers like. Good! I definitely felt a burst of energy from this one, and my metabolism seemed to work just fine after.
So: did these bars turn me into a superhero, or were they all just chocolate-covered lies? I reached out to a few of the manufacturers to see if there was any particular benefit to delivering nutrients in chocolate, and while several of them replied that chocolate is a way to mask the less-pleasant tastes of certain other things (maca, I’m looking at you), YesCacao did offer an additional potential benefit “Cacao (which is the main ingredient in chocolate) is a vasodilator, meaning it expands the blood vessels. This is a perfect way to increase the body’s ability to absorb the lengthy list of select superfoods.”
With the possible exceptions of the Vega Maca bar & Good Superfoods Mandarin Orange bar, they didn’t make me feel perceptibly different, but then, neither do vitamins. The real draw of these chocolates, as with all chocolate, is chocolate: I actually wanted to eat them, and they were much less forgettable than the numerous bottles of supplements that are currently nourishing my kitchen cabinet and little else. While they were too expensive for regular use, they all met the flavor standards of any splurge-y chocolate, and might have made me healthier along the way.