What is cadmium and why is everyone talking about it

rainforest cadmium blog

Currently a disastrous situation for the protection of the Amazon rainforest is under way. Natural jungle land has been used to grow cacao and will likely get slashed and burned to farm commodity crops such as palm oil.


It has long been known that cocoa, and many other foods, often contain trace amounts of heavy metals.

Volcanic soils tend to have higher levels of all minerals present, including heavy metals, and cacao grown in these soils will tend to have higher levels of cadmium specifically, as a result of cacao’s mineral dense nature (cadmium is a mineral.)

This has never been an issue for local people consuming this cacao daily, as cadmium is very poorly absorbed by the body, only 3 – 5 %, and if minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc are present in the diet they reduce the absorption of cadmium even more.

Cacao happens to be rich in these same minerals, so tends to have a natural protective effect for cadmium absorption.

To date no direct link has been established between chocolate eating and cadmium body load.

Why all the attention now?

The reason this is suddenly news, is that after decades of study, the EU found that levels of heavy metals are on the rise in people, often exceeding safety levels. As a result of this, recommended safety levels for heavy metals in food have been drastically reduced as of 2019.

Many foods have been affected by this change, however cacao consumption constitutes as little as 5% of the dietary cadmium load.

Rice, seaweed, organ meats, seafood, peanuts, sun­flower seeds, leafy greens, potatoes, bread, and mushrooms are well known sources of cadmium.

The cadmium content of these other foods is often the result of environmental contamination by industry and chemical agriculture.

Cacao however has been very hard hit by the new regulations in Europe. Especially volcanic grown cacao. The very thing that makes this cacao amazingly mineral dense, also results in it being flagged as a high cadmium food.

When I first heard of this, I had our personal heavy metal levels checked by hair mineral analysis. Beryn and I have consumed large amounts of our cacao daily for over a decade. I expected us to have large amounts of cadmium in our bodies even though the cacao products we have at superfoods have always met the regulatory requirements for safety.

The results were quite the opposite, there very low levels of cadmium for both of us.

Considering the mineral competition nature of cadmium to calcium, zinc and iron, this made sense to me because these are all present in cacao.

Regardless of my own levels, the new EU regulations put our cacao paste and powder in the red.

Our suppliers

The people we get our cacao from are being very badly affected by this situation.

They buy cacao beans from small family owned and run land in the forest. With these results they are no longer able to sell their beans and are losing their income and possibly even their lands.

They are actively monitoring and testing every batch of cacao to make sure it complies with the new regulations and have assured us that our next batch of cacao will be within limits. This will be within 3 – 6 months.

In the meantime is it safe to consume our cacao powder and paste?

These are the only 2 cacao products we sell that are over the levels and my family is continuing to eat paste and powder, but not on a daily basis. Cacao nibs and our raw chocolate bars are our current favourites and these are below the limits set.

For paste and powder, daily intake of 5 grams and under is acceptable at California’s Prop levels, 10 grams and under is acceptable under the European food safety levels.

The testing of such tiny amounts of Cadmium is difficult and the results generally have a variance of up to 40%.

The new EU Regulation (EU) 488/2014 restricts the amount of cadmium in food vs suggesting safe daily intake levels as done by Cal prop and EFSA, and under these new levels our cacao powder and paste are over the limit.

There are no limits set by South African standards, but we are actively working on providing cacao that is below the stringent new EU levels.

Consuming our cacao paste and powder at or below the above daily limits, will limit your exposure to cadmium.


With some perspective, considering the low absorption of cadmium and that cacao is a small part of dietary exposure to cadmium, I in no way see our cacao as a health threat, quite the opposite, the proven positives as shown in this article about cacao far outweigh the negatives.

On top of that, being conscious of avoiding non organic, GMO, and chemicalised food is your best defence against health threats.

I have for years also suggested regular heavy metal detoxing periods, using powerful foods such as chlorella and coriander, in conjunction with MSM, digestive enzymes and fibre rich foods like chia, to keep heavy metals in the body down.

We live in a profoundly polluted world and need to be conscious of our choices to limit exposure to poisons.

Our supplier is the most environmentally conscious cacao supplier in the world, and are dedicated to organic and biodynamic agriculture as well as efforts to protect the rainforest.

We will continue to support them and are hopeful that they can survive this storm.

To your continued health and wellness.

Peter Daniel

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The beauty of raw cacao as a superfood for better health

Why Eat Raw Cacao?

Most of us love chocolate, but should we be eating it? Anyone who has gorged on slabs of milk chocolate will most likely have experienced weight gain, bad skin and addiction. But is there another side to this deliciously decadent food? The deep social guilt entrenched in our relationship to chocolate is now giving way to exciting new revelations that show you can have your chocolate and eat it!

Cacao’s Healthy History

Revered by the Mayans as the food of the gods, chocolate has been used by many cultures over thousands of years. The surprising truth is it was originally used Mesoamerican people as a medicine and as money. Mayan, Olmec and Aztec cultures living between 1500BC and 400 AD were the first humans recorded to consume cacao. For these civilizations, cacao was a symbol of abundance and was often used in religious rituals. They often made a delicious drink from crushed cacao beans, mixed with water, spices, chillies and herbs. Cacao was and still is commonly known among South and Central American tribes as a medicinal carrier. When mixed with medicinal herbs it helps to enhance the effects by increasing the absorption and activation within the body.

The first Europeans to encounter cacao were travelers in the early 1600’s. During the 17th to 19th centuries in Europe accounts of the medicinal properties of cacao and chocolate included the stimulation of the nervous system and improved digestion, as well as being an effective expectorant. Antonio Lavedan claimed that chocolate was a sort of universal medicine. He found it prolonging one’s lifetime significantly as well as stimulated natural warmth and the heart, decreased flatulence, resolved constipation, helped digestion and appetite, increased virility and slowed down white hair growth. Chocolate was used to mask the bitter taste of medicines: under the name health chocolate, a wide range of drug concoctions used cacao to help promote their sales, and entire lines of chocolate-flavored medical products were produced.

In 1659 David Chaillou opened the first chocolaterie in Paris. Chaillou roasted the beans in a pan and ground them the same way the Mayans and the Aztecs did, but it wasn’t long before his technique became an outdated story. During the industrial revolution a Frenchman named Doret invented a hydraulic machine to grind cacao beans into paste. This new fandangled gadget was the first of many cacao processing machines, each one faster and hotter than the last. What they didn’t realize was how much the processing changing the nature and quality of chocolate.

The Downfall of Chocolate

By the 20th century chocolate finally lost its place as a health food: As ingredients began to change it soon found itself in the realm of junk food. The ‘fear-of-fat’ movement, which commenced in the 1970’s,demonized chocolate blaming obesity on its high-fat content. Yet the dental problems that were occurring in chocolate eaters illuminated the real link to weight gain: refined sugar. Neither of these issues made chocolate any less popular. Instead, shrouded in layers and layers of guilt, chocolate was forced underground where it found a new identity as a secret addiction. Today, nearly every ingredient found in commercial chocolate has been taken through a long, chemical induced, denaturing process.


In 1828 chemist Coenraad van Houten of Holland invented a process to extract cacao butter from cacao paste separating the butter from the powder. With the modern machinery used to process cacao today (which heat the cacao to between 120 C and 150 C), as much as 90% of the flavonoids, as well as other beneficial nutrients, may be lost. The processing plants also add various synthetic chemicals such as alkalisers and acids during the process, plus most cacao beans now contain a cocktail of pesticides and fungicides.


The addition of milk to chocolate first occurred at the end of the 17th century. In 1876 Nestlè created condensed powdered milk, which yet again changed the taste of chocolate. Unfortunately conventional processed milk, like so many foods, is a far cry from the milk our great grandparents drank. Today milk not only contains unhealthy hormones and antibiotics, but pasteurization and homogenization rape milk of any goodness. The end result is yet another processed food.


In the 1970’s saturated fats, such as cacao butter, were suddenly deemed villainous. The once creamy element of chocolate now gave way to the new generation of solidified hydrogenated fats. Just as margarine replaced butter, hydrogenated vegetable fat replaced cacao butter, forcing chocolate to take on yet another new identity. The irony was cacao butter is incredibly healthy whereas transfats have now been found to be a major culprit in chronic disease.


Sugar was one of the first foods to become refined. Stripped of all its nutrients sugar soon became the offender in many addictions. With fat losing its place on the food pyramid and in the kitchen something had to replace it, and that something was sugar. What was once an added sprinkle of natural cane sugar soon became a monstrous pile of refined white poison. The flavor of cacao was nearly lost completely by the overpowering sweetness of sucrose.


A naturally occurring mineral, cadmium is often present in cacao and particularly in the crops grown in soil enriched with volcanic ash. High mineral content is good, but it also means the presence of cadmium. With raw, heirloom cacao the cadmium is poorly absorbed by the body due to the presence of competing minerals, but most chocolate available is highly processed and stripped of these beneficial minerals. Read more about this here.

Back to Basics

With the dawn of superfoods in the 1980’s raw, organic cacao slowly made its way back into the health food stores. This time raw, organic cacao chocolate bars, such as Soaring Free Superfoods bars make their mark by going back to the original mayan chocolate making process.

Firstly, the cacao pods are fermented for 4 to 5 days then the beans are dried. Later they are slowly conched (ground into a paste) at 40C for four days: the low temperature keeping all the minerals and phytonutrients completely intact. Later the cacao paste is melted (at 40C) and tampered with the raw cacao butter to make pure, unadulterated chocolate!

Even roasted, organic cacao is still free of the list of toxins that come along with conventional chocolates, but many phytonutrients are lost in the process.

Full Circle: Known Health Benefits Today

The recent rediscovery of cacao and organic chocolate has refocused the lens back onto its nutritional qualities. Thanks to the advancement in analytical technologies, the cacao’s metabolic pathways have now been properly mapped providing essential information on its roles. With multiple studies verifying the positive health effects of chocolate we are once again enjoying guilt free chocolate.


Cacao is filled with serotonin (the happy hormone) and it’s precursor, L-tryptophan. No wonder we all crave chocolate when we are feeling a little down and out. The serotonin effect is so apparent many people are beginning to use high grade organic chocolate as a natural antidepressant. Because of its antioxidant properties, cacao also offers neural protection and enhances cognition and positive mood.

Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart, so it can help to improve cognitive function. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a naturally occurring hormone like substance that acts as a neurotransmitter. It helps alertness, focus and to elevate a depressed mood. PEA amplifies the activity of major neurotransmitters for increased longevity, slower aging and increased cognitive function.

Cacao also contains theobromine, an antioxidant, which positively influences our moods and our state of alertness. Recent studies have highlighted the potential of theobromine to be anti-tumoral, anti-inflammatory and a cardiovascular protector molecule. The main mechanisms of action of theobromine are inhibition of phosphodiesterases and blockade of adenosine receptors, thus increasing the reduction of cellular oxidative stress and regulation of gene expression.


These are supported by the bioavailable minerals found in cacao. A recent study on Ghanian cacao beans found the most abundant mineral in unfermented cacao pulp was potassium (2318.7mg/100g)followed by phosphorus (381.8mg/100g), magnesium (349.2mg/100g) and calcium (142.mg/100g) which had appreciable values, then copper (15.3mg/100g), zinc (9.4 mg/100 g), sodium (2.7mg/100g)and lastly iron (1.4 mg/100 g) was still high enough to be beneficial. Most people are suffering from some level of a mineral deficiency so it is no wonder so many crave chocolate. According to research chocolate is the most craved food by women. This craving is doubled before menstruation, most likely because chocolate contains a valuable source of magnesium and other minerals needed for a healthy reproductive cycle. These minerals are also needed for healthy muscles, organs, bones and mental health.


It contains approximately 250mg of beta and gamma tocopherol vitamin E’s per gram. It is also packed with phospholipids and phosphosterols. In fact the plant-based saturated fat is in fact an easily absorbable, much needed brain food.One third of the fat content in cacao butter is composed of stearic acid. Unlike saturated fat from animals, stearic acid has no negative impact on cholesterol levels.


The polyphenols found in cacao may thus protect against diseases in which oxidative stress is implicated as a causal or contributing factor.The antioxidant properties of cacao polyphenols endow them with various positive effects against several pathological disorders, including cardiovascular disease, inflammatory processes, metabolic disorders, and cancer. It has been demonstrated that polyphenols cause nonapoptotic cell death, blocking the cell cycle in the G2/M phase, which potentiates their antiproliferative effects. They also have antiproliferative, antimutagenic, and chemoprotective effects, in addition to their anticariogenic effects.


The heart is supported by raw chocolate’s rich dietary source of polyphenols. Several studies have found the dietary intake of polyphenols from cacao have a beneficial effect on vascular health. Recent reports indicate that this flavonoids has a variety of beneficial actions on cardiovascular health, including antioxidant protection, anti-inflammatory qualities, anti-atherogenic activity and modulation of vascular homeostasis. The phenolics from cacao modify the lipid profile, decreasing platelet function and inflammation along with diastolic and systolic arterial pressures, which, taken together, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Cacao has a great trace mineral content, which help support vascular tone. Cacao polyphenols increase endothelial nitric oxide concentrations, improve vascular function, and decrease platelet adhesion. Plus the anti-inflammatory compounds have been found to decrease inflammation in cardiovascular tissue.Therefore multiple components in chocolate, particularly flavonoids, can contribute to a strong healthy heart.


These appear to be boosted by cacao’s beneficial action on the gut microbiome. When looking at the immune system we discover that 80% of it lies within the bacteria in the gut. Most traditional medicines speak about health starting in the gut; and if we look at the nature of the bacteria we begin to understand why. These tiny microscopic entities are not only in charge of our immune system but they also make hormones, balance the nervous system and up-regulate our DNA. Therefore feeding our good bacteria is of primary important to all aspects of health. Cacao polyphenols can also modulate intestinal inflammation (through the reduction of neutrophil infiltration and expression of different transcription factors), which leads to decreases in the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes and cytokines.

According to Science Daily Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate! Combining the fiber in cacao with prebiotics helps to convert polyphenolics into anti-inflammatory compounds in the stomach. Ingesting prebiotics increases the beneficial gut microbes, thus decreasing undesirable microbes in the gut. One could enhance the health benefits by combining chocolate with wild, low sugar fruits like pomegranates and acai.


Support for these ailments can be gained from the benefits from the immune regulating, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective andantioxidant effects of cacao according to recent research. The phenolics from cacao also modify the glycemic response helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

“Cocoa helps in weight loss by improving mitochondrial biogenesis. It increases muscle glucose uptake by inserting glucose transporter 4 in skeletal muscles membrane. It lowers immunoglobulin E release in allergic responses. It can affect the immune response and bacterial growth at intestinal levels. It reduces inflammation by inhibiting nuclear factor-κB. Keeping in view the pleiotropic health benefits of cacao, it may have the potential to be used for the prevention/treatment of allergies, cancers, oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance.”

Another study suggests regular consumption of cacao flavanols might be effective in improving insulin resistance, blood pressure and cognitive function.


Cancer protocols can benefit from the antioxidant properties of cacao polyphenols according to a recent study. Polyphenols have an anti-inflammatory action which helps irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) through the inhibition of cytokines. These actions produce chemo preventive effects on chronic diseases such as cancer by inhibiting the growth of various cancer cell lines. Of special interest are the effects of polyphenols on colon cancer. The protective effects of polyphenols on IBD helps to prevent it from evolving into cancer. In addition, it has been demonstrated that polyphenols cause nonapoptotic cell death, blocking the cell cycle in the G2/M phase, which potentiates their anti-proliferative effects. A recent study shows a cacao-rich diet may inhibit the early stage of colon carcinogenesis probably by preventing oxidative stress and cell proliferation and by inducing apoptosis.

No matter what flavour tickles your fancy, we now have access to the highest quality organic raw and cooked chocolates that are clearly medicine for the heart and soul.

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GMO vs. Non-GMO


In recent years, the question of GMO vs. Non-GMO has come up more and more in consumer conversations and we’ve seen a 150% growth in interest in this topic over the last year alone. However, there are still many misconceptions about genetically modified food and their organic heirloom counterparts.

What is GMO?

It’s a genetically modified organism is created by merging the DNA from different species to create this organism; combining plant, animal, bacteria and/or virus, which cannot be produced in nature or through traditional crossbreeding.

When modifying the organism, scientists will remove certain genes from the DNA of a plant, animal, bacteria or virus different to that of the organism they are modifying. These genes are then combined with the DNA of the organism they are modifying in the hopes that these newly added genes will create new traits.

As a result, in some instances, plant foods in particular can be modified in such a way that the food is able to produce its own pesticide. Needless to say, this internal pesticide is consumed when you eat the plant.

Also, pesticides used on GMOs cannot be washed off as they are absorbed into the crops. For Bt GM crops which are genetically modified to carry the Bacillus thuringiensis gene, making the plant produce a crystal toxic to insects, this is in addition to the insecticide already present within the crop itself.

Contrary to popular belief, GM crops do not mean less spraying of pesticides. In fact, GMO’s have lead to massive increases in toxic agricultural chemical use.

GMO’s in South Africa

As of 1 October 2011, the law in South Africa is that food producer, importers and packagers need to specify if a product is made with 5% or more GM ingredients (5% is still too much GMO for anyone to consume)and if the food is grown from GM seeds such as maize products. Also, if the food has not been tested for GMOs it needs to say that it could contain them.  You can read more detail on that here.

A quick look at the label of a product should tell you if what you are buying contains GMO ingredients, but there are only a few companies that comply with the labeling laws. We would recommend becoming familiar with the ethics of the product brand rather than just relying on labeling.

If a product is organically certified, it will also be GMO free.

A product cannot be organically certified if it contains genetically modified ingredients in any percentage.

South Africa is also said to be the 8th largest GMO crop producer in the world with our maize, cotton, canola and soya production. We South Africans have been eating genetically modified food for more than a decade without knowing it.

But why is this conversation such a relevant one and, more importantly, what do you need to know to become an informed conscious consumer?

There is a common, worldwide upward trend amongst consumers wanting organically grown, GMO-free food.

When you start looking into the foods you eat, you need to know what it is you are looking for. Knowing the difference between GMO and Non-GMO foods is one of the simplest ways to invest in your health, now and in the future.

So what is Non-GMO?

In a nutshell, non-GMO foods are foods which have not been genetically modified, meaning the food strain and DNA have not been engineered or altered through the years and still contains the original integrity of the food strains.

What are heirloom seeds?

Heirloom foods are even better as they are grown from the original, non-hybridised, non-GM seeds. They are seeds that are passed down through generations of farming families and have the most diverse colours and flavours available.

Why should you start phasing GMO foods out of your pantry? Like, today!

On the outside, it sounds like a good idea: food that can protect itself from both insects or even disease it comes into contact with while growing. Food that is cheaper, yields more produce and can grow faster …

While this technique has been used for some time, in recent years, scientists, consumer groups and environmental groups, have pointed out that modified foods can have certain risks.

No long-term safety studies exist on either the safety or benefits of GMO ingredients.

  The health and environmental hazards of genetically modified foods

The only human feeding study ever conducted showed transference of foreign DNA into human gut bacteria.  GMOs have been linked to increased allergies, gut-related conditions, autism, auto-immune disease, infertility, birth defects, obesity, cancers, and other illnesses in independent scientific studies on lab animals.

As for the environment, GMO foods can release harmful toxins into the soil, they can create pest resistance that ends up decimating organically grown foods, and they can cause an upsetting disruption to the biodiversity of the plants by interrupting the natural genes. GMOs and increased pesticide use are a major factor in the increasing death rates of bees and butterflies, as well as bird populations.

GMO pollen can travel for miles by wind or via pollinating animals like honeybees. GMO genes then infect non-GMO and organic crops. Allowing the increased use of GMO agriculture could mean the contamination and eventual extinction of natural species; animals and plants alike.

For more in depth information on GMO’s you can watch the free movie “Genetic Roulette” based on the book by Jeffery M Smith here. Make time for it, it’s worth it. If you only have 10 minutes then you can find the shorter version at the end of this page.

When these risks were exposed and made public, consumers began to demand that products be labelled as GMO or non-GMO so that they can decide what kind of food they eat.

If  you join the growing legions of consumers taking back control over what they and their families eat, there are many ways you can avoid genetically modified foods when the label isn’t giving you the information you need.

How to avoid GMO foods

♥ Buy locally grown food

Explore farmers markets nearby and support local small farmers producing small scale crops through sustainable business practices.

Locally grown food generally comes from small scale farms offering fresh from the farm foods. If you can, start a conversation with them! Check with the farmer if the seeds used are non-GMO, or even better, heirloom seeds. And check if pesticides are used – non-GMO doesn’t mean it’s organic. Not only will you be buying quality, nutritious food, but you will also be supporting your local farmer and their workers meaning you are consciously choosing to invest in your local community.

♥ Grow your own

Another super easy way to commit to a GMO-free diet is to grow your own food.

If you have a garden, why not put it to good use by planting vegetables? It’s not as hard as it seems and along with improving your diet, it may also become a favourite pastime where you reconnect with nature the soil from which you grow your foods.  You can get in touch with Soil For Life to take a course on making a garden, or you can buy their book here.

♥ Know the ethics and standards of the businesses you buy from

If you understand how and why a business does what it does, it means you can buy their products with confidence.

At Soaring Free Superfoods, we stock a range of organic superfoods, free from genetic modification. Our product ranges will provide you with healthy, nutritious superfoods which contain the original integrity of the plant strains. We care about how the environment is affected by the farming adnd harvesting methods used to grow these superfoods. That means organic, non-GMO or wildcrafted with integrity is the only way to go for us.

What’s the bottom line ?

Love is the bottom line. Making conscious purchase decisions means that you are aware of how your money-vote impacts the world around you. By wisely choosing to support conscious companies who lead sustainable business practices and who invest in building communities, you as a consumer, are driving the change towards a more eco-friendly and ethical practices.

Choose Organic GMO-Free Superfoods

Superfoods are truly worthy of their name. Unlike much of the food you buy these days, superfoods are high-return nutritional investments as they are more densely packed with quality, high integrity vitamins and minerals, including anti-oxidants, fibre, and healthy fats, than many other foods and commercial supplements. They are still in their wholefood form the way they are designed in nature. Including superfoods into your diet can elevate your energy levels, as well as many other benefits, even when consumed in small amounts. We find that people experience each of the superfoods differently and that therefore, they have their favourites. Find the superfood that fuels you!

Soaring Free Superfoods is committed to helping you live a healthier lifestyle through providing you with healthier nutritional supplement choices that are naturally from our earth and processed to maintain their integrity. Our product range is available to order online, and are certified organic or wildcrafted and certified pesticide free.

They are ethically & sustainably sourced to show that we respect Mother Earth and all the life she supports.

♥ You can rest assured that your money is voting for ethical industry.♥



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