You May Not Be Allergic to Chocolate

Reactions to Additives and Ingredients

There are many people who complain of allergy-like symptoms after eating chocolate. Some of these symptoms include: headaches, itchy mouth, irritation and simply not feeling right. But is it really the chocolate that they are reacting to? Or is it one of the ingredients in the chocolate that is really causing a problem?  For many, the latter is the case.

Conventional processed chocolate is made with a variety of different ingredients and additives that can cause allergic symptoms in individuals. Some of these include: milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, gluten, soy, corn and caffeine. This is why it is important to read ingredient labels before consuming a product.

Pure chocolate made from cacao is often tolerable among individuals as many of the added ingredients mentioned above are not in the product. Cacao is the dried bean from a South American evergreen tree that is used to make cocoa, chocolate and cocoa butter. However, there are some that are still sensitive to this seed. Cacao allergies can produce symptoms such as itchy nose, throat and eyes, as well as congestion and hives. Some individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, cramping or diarrhea. In rare cases, an acute allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can result.

A great alternative to cacao and conventional chocolate is carob. Carob is a legume from the carob tree, native to the Mediterranean. It has a slightly similar flavour and texture to traditional chocolate but it is sweeter, alkaline, and does not contain caffeine. When substituting cacao powder for carob powder in a recipe, you can replace them cup for cup. However, you will have to cut down on your natural sweetener because of the sweet nature of carob. It is important to note that while carob is a great substitute for cacao or conventional chocolate, it should be consumed in a natural organic form (not processed). 

Carob-Coconut Bliss Balls

  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup carob powder
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1 cup coconut flakes


  1. Add sunflower seed butter and maple syrup to a bowl or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Add hemp seeds, carob powder, oat bran and quinoa flakes and blend until mixture becomes like dough.
  3. Scrape down sides of food processor as necessary. Spread coconut on a plate.
  4. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and rolls in shredded coconut.
  5. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.



Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy stems around whole foods. For more information please visit her website

Categories: Allergies & Special Diets