Antidote Blog


By Red Thalhammer

It started with a serendipitous text message - an idea that became an obsession; to make an antidote for blues and emotional conflictions. In short, A superfood chocolate, low in sugar and with exciting flavor pairings to feed your superpowers because cacao is a superfood.

Over the years together with the production team, farmers, and all providers and printers, we grew, refined and improved with each batch for each bite. We have been selling from NY to LA. Some years in Europe and since 10 years in Japan. Now with 15 flavors and 1 baking bar, there will be a new sophisticated flavor on 84% cacao coming in November and I can’t wait to have you taste the latest. 13 years and we are still a boutique chocolate company of an unapologetic small size, serving the fabulous you and some of the nicest, coolest stores. Celebrate with us a devotion to creativity, flavor adventures and energizing delight.

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By Red Thalhammer


This article is from Be Brain Fit.

Last updated May 8, 2023.
Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC. Written by Deane Alban.

To keep the Article intact, Antidote has only added 3 comments in brackets starting with *1 where we wanted to add Antidote and maker insights.

Dark chocolate boosts mood, protects the brain, improves memory and focus & more. Learn the benefits of cacao nibs and how to choose good dark chocolate.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
— Charles M. Schulz

The world loves chocolate.

Every year, we eat over 100 billion dollars worth of it!

We love chocolate not just because of the way it tastes.

We love it because of the way it makes us feel.

Chocolate is an enormously complex food containing over 1,500 biochemicals

Several of these are known to positively impact mood and brain health and function, which is why you’ll find dark chocolate on any list of top brain foods.

It’s rare that something so delicious is also healthy, but dark chocolate is an exception to the rule.

Here are 9 proven brain benefits of eating dark chocolate.



Dark chocolate boosts the production of feel-good chemicals called endorphins

Endorphins bind with opiate receptors in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria, like the kind joggers get from “runner’s high.”

They also reduce pain and diminish the negative effects of stress

Chocolate is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness and positive mood.

Chocolate is the main food source of anandamide, a naturally occurring compound called the “bliss molecule.”

Related on Be Brain Fit —

Anandamide: Bliss Molecule for Happiness & Mental Balance

This neurotransmitter is very similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive component in marijuana. 

Dark chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a compound called the “love drug” because it creates a brain buzz similar to being in love. 

Theobromine, a caffeine-related compound that’s found in chocolate, is thought to make chocolate a mild aphrodisiac. 

And finally, chocolate increases levels of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter critical for positive mood. 



Compounds in dark chocolate boost memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain

The flavonoids in chocolate have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain in young and old alike.

In one study, a single dose of cocoa rich in flavanols (the main flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate) caused a measurable increase in cerebral blood flow in healthy, young adults. 

[Discover the many ways that our modern lifestyle diminishes blood circulation to the brain.]

Another study found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate increased blood flow to the brain for 2-3 hours.



The brain uses a lot of oxygen, about 20% of the body’s total intake.

This makes the  brain susceptible to free radical damage.

Free radicals are unattached oxygen molecules that attack cells in much the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust.

If you’ve ever seen a sliced apple or avocado turn brown, you’ve seen free radical damage at work.

Wrinkles, age spots, and sun damage on your skin are visible signs of free radical damage.

The same process is going on inside your brain.

Antioxidants protect brain cells by neutralizing free radical damage and preventing premature brain cell aging.

When tested against coffee and tea, cocoa powder drink exhibited more antioxidant activity than green tea, but less than coffee. 



Cocoa’s flavonoids enter the brain and accumulate in regions involved in learning and memory, especially the hippocampus. 

Seniors who consume foods high in flavonoids, including chocolate, score better on standardized cognitive tests

Chocolate also contains some caffeine, a known brain booster that, in low doses, improves both mental and physical performance

" Chocolate is an enormously complex food containing over 1,500 biochemicals. 

Caffeine in a normal-size serving of chocolate is relatively low compared to tea and, especially, coffee.

So eating chocolate in moderation probably won’t contain enough caffeine to make you feel wired or keep you awake at night.



Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is so good for anxiety and stress that it’s been called “nature’s Valium.”

It can help reduce stress by suppressing the release of the stress hormone cortisol

Getting more magnesium in your diet can improve memory, focus, mood, sleep, and resilience to stress. 

Related on Be Brain Fit —

How Magnesium Relieves Anxiety & Stress (detailed guide)

Magnesium is largely missing from the modern diet, but chocolate contains a substantial amount of it. 

Cocoa solids contain more magnesium per gram than almost any other food. 

 It’s suspected that people who crave chocolate might be deficient in magnesium.



Chocolate is the most widely craved food

But indulging in cheap, mass-produced milk chocolate doesn’t reduce cravings.

In fact, it fuels them (because of the sugar that’s in milk chocolate).

On the other hand, high-quality dark chocolate is extremely satisfying, so you should find that you’re satisfied eating less of it.

Eating a little dark chocolate has been shown to reduce cravings for junk food of all kinds — sweet, salty, and fatty. 

Consequently, it can help you make healthy food choices and lose weight.

Is all this satisfaction due to chocolate’s unique profile of phytochemicals?

Or is there a psychological aspect to our love affair with chocolate?

Interestingly, it seems that the sensory experience of eating dark chocolate is an important part of its ability to satisfy cravings.

When scientists put the beneficial ingredients of chocolate in a pill, it did not have the same appetite-suppressing effect. 



There have been many exciting findings regarding chocolate’s use in treating brain-related medical conditions like strokes and dementia.

The consumption of flavonoid-rich foods like cocoa may potentially limit, prevent, or reverse age-related brain deterioration

The powerful antioxidants found in dark chocolate reduce the risk of dementia.

In one study, the more chocolate seniors ate, the less likely they were to develop dementia

Chocolate’s flavanols improved cognition in seniors diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). 

Dark chocolate has been found to decrease insulin resistance.

This is significant because many experts believe Alzheimer’s is a disease of insulin resistance, a form of diabetes of the brain. 

When brain cells become insulin-resistant, they don’t get the glucose they need, and subsequently die.



One of the most unusual health benefits of dark chocolate is that it increases beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

And oddly, this is good news for your brain!

Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are two of the most prevalent strains of “good” bacteria in your gut and are found in most probiotic supplements.

Related on Be Brain Fit —

Psychobiotics: Use the Gut-Brain Connection for Mental Health

They act as antioxidants, protecting the brain from free radical damage

Chocolate also acts as a prebiotic, keeping good bacteria levels high and “bad” bacteria in check.

An overabundance of bad bacteria can lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 

This important brain chemical is essential for keeping existing brain cells healthy and stimulating the formation of new brain cells.



You’ve already seen that eating dark chocolate can improve your ability to learn, focus, and remember.

One study reports that the more chocolate a country consumes, the more Nobel Prize winners it has!

While this may sound like a joke, the study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious organization not known for pranks.

In all seriousness though, eating quality chocolate has been shown to be neuroprotective and to enhance brain plasticity, a trait that’s linked to increased intelligence. 



To get the maximum brain benefits from chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.

Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains more of the things that are good for you, like flavonoids and antioxidants, and less of the things that aren’t, like sugar. *1 (Antidote Milk chocolate bars are very low in sugar and do not compare with other milk chocolate bars)

It’s thought that the dairy in milk chocolate could interfere with flavonoid absorption, but, so far, studies have been inconclusive


When you see a number like 70% on a bar of dark chocolate, this indicates the total percentage of everything derived from the cocoa bean — chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder.

In general, 70% is a good minimum to start for any significant health benefits.

Like many of the finer things in life, eating very dark chocolate can be an acquired taste. 

Note: The terms cacao and cocoa are often used interchangeably on labels. Technically, cacao is the name of the bean from which chocolate is made. Cocoa refers to the processed final product. 


I’ve seen several websites mention that cacao is heavily sprayed with pesticides, making it one of the most chemical-laden food crops.

But I haven’t found any reliable data to back this up or to examine how much of a health concern this is for the consumer.

However, organic is usually a good indicator of overall quality.

*2 (Knowing how Antidote farmers care for their cacao we can’t confirm that. However Antidote uses organic when possible. Antidote chooses not to buy organic cacao in order to get the best possible quality for flavor and purity) 

Related on Be Brain Fit —

50 Yummy & Healthy Brain Food Recipes

Truly healthy dark chocolate will contain only a handful of ingredients.

Besides cocoa, it will contain a sweetener and not much else.

It won’t contain high fructose corn syrup, chemical additives, emulsifiers, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial color or flavoring, or any other artificial ingredients.

Additionally, you may notice the words “fair trade” on chocolate labels.

Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive a fair price and that no slave or child labor was used. 

*3 (Antidote as well as many other bean-to-bar makers choose Direct Trade over Fair Trade as purchasing cacao directly from the famers creates a much bigger impact and higher profits for farmers)



Dark chocolate truly deserves the term “brain food.”

It can improve overall brain health, focus, and concentration, and even make you happier.

It protects the brain from aging and oxidation, and helps to keep it fit and fully functioning.

To get the most mental health benefits, choose the darkest chocolate that you enjoy.

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French Chocolate Brown Butter TART with our NEW SUPREME Bake + Snack bar

By Red Thalhammer

French Chocolate

With a note from our baker Eliana Ward: "The tart came out amazing! I had made this same tart before with just store bought chocolate and this outcome was significantly different. It was so smooth, so creamy, and so decadent. By far the best tart I have made and I attribute that to the quality of chocolate"

For the crust:

  • 3 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
For the ganache filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ½ ounces Antidote Supreme Bake 73% chocolate
  • 1 ounce butter


Preheat the oven to 210C

Combine butter, water, oil, sugar, salt in a bowl over medium heat. 

Stir occasionally till golden and brown, starts smelling nutty.

Remove from heat, add 1 cup flour, combine till forms to ball.

Allow to cool and use fingers to press into an 8-9" tart tin with removable bottom.

Bake for 15 min till golden. Allow to cool before adding filling.


Break chocolate into small pieces in medium bowl.

Bring heavy cream to boil.

Pour hot cream over chocolate stir till creamy, when melted add butter till well incorporated.  

Add to the cooled crust, chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour but up to 24 hours. 

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Consumer Reports – “Lead & Cadmium in Chocolate” – A Hyperbole

By Red Thalhammer

Lead and Cadmium in Chocolate

“Lead and Cadmium Could Be in Your Dark Chocolate” -CR

Sounds Scary! Until you look at the Data. “Should I be worried?”

No. Now let’s dive into, “Why?”

Where is this coming from? 

CR: A Recipe for Chocolate Consumer Panic

In December 2022, Consumer Reports (CR) published an article indicating 28 chocolate bars were tested, and many had “high” levels of cadmium and/or lead.

Some points to know, which will be covered in further detail below:

  • CR is using California’s maximum allowable dose levels (MADL) as their baseline
    • They do not explain this threshold, nor is this level based in science
  • CR only focuses on chocolate
    • There is no context of how other foods are common sources of dietary cadmium uptake
  • CR does not cover how the human body removes toxic elements from your system
    • Nor do they mention how chocolate supports these mechanisms

CR neglects to include any “big picture” relative view – merely chocolate + cadmium & lead. Plus, we need to interpret these results with data & science:


CR uses California’s maximum allowable dose levels (MADL) as their baseline for lead & cadmium uptake. The levels are 0.5mg & 4.1mg daily, respectively. Now, these seem like rock-solid figures that we need to keep an eye on, right?

Wrong. Enter, “NOEL.”

NOEL is the no-observed-effect level of a test substance by the safety factor. NOEL is the highest dose level that results in no observable reproductive effect and is scientifically established with science and lab tests.

MADL is arbitrarily set 1000x lower than NOEL. MADL and the 1000x reduction is a ‘public policy decision’ and guideline, not a scientific one.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) studied cadmium uptake, which resulted in the findings which found the average dietary intake of cadmium in the US is 4.6 micrograms per day – this works out to be 112% of MADL – thus, this should not be the baseline figure that CR uses for the baseline in their reports.

MADL is also quite a bit lower than legal thresholds placed on food manufacturers (via Prop 65 in California & EU Regulations) as there are no federal regulations on this.

If you even look deeper into Prop 65, the thresholds have actually been increased over time, as the thresholds were initially set arbitrarily – yet this is still the “baseline” used.


The segments in both the news and online appear to be maliciously targeting dark chocolate – but nothing is mentioned in the report regarding how the overarching food system as a whole faces this problem.

NIH posted an article “Dietary Cadmium Intake and Sources in the US” which does not solely target chocolate but discussed the food industry as a whole. “The food groups that contributed most to [cadmium] intake were cereals and bread (34%), leafy vegetables (20%), potatoes (11%), legumes and nuts (7%), and stem/root vegetables (6%). The foods that contributed most to total Cd intake were lettuce (14%), spaghetti (8%), bread (7%), and potatoes (6%)”

But this article specifically targets chocolate – we cannot speak specifically as to why, however we can speculate: Chocolate is a beloved product with a passionate following that will certainly generate more “buzz” on the topic than the other items listed above.

However, rest assured that chocolate continues to be a decadent, luxurious treat with known health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Like all dietary decisions, learn the facts and decide what is best for you.

Chocolate can and should remain safely on your list of specialty foods for culinary and snacking enjoyment!


Now, we are not saying cadmium does not have an ill-effect in high doses.

The NIH states, “Due to the chronic nature of dietary Cd exposure, combined with the long half-life of Cd in the human body, Cd can accumulate in multiple tissue types, contributing to the development of cancer, kidney dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, osteoporosis, and increased mortality.”

However, the human body would have to surpass NOEL-defined intake, of which MADL is 1000x less than, of which CR is basing their “report” on.

CR also fails to mention the human body’s natural cleansing agents to assist in the body expelling cadmium.

Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium are minerals of which help reduce the toxicity of cadmium in the human body, and these are substantially present in cocoa.

This report in no way should affect your perception of or your actual consumption of chocolate.

Closing Notes:

The NIH links in this post are the same which are used in the CR piece – but CR cherry-picked specific quotes which work for their anti-chocolate argument.

Why is CR using MADL as their baseline instead of NOEL? This is a good question – if they used NOEL in the report, all levels in their baseline would be 900x+ higher than what they used, and there would be no article to write, as all detected levels are 900x or less than the NOEL baseline.

If you multiply the levels of cadmium and lead in CR’s findings by 1,000x, the majority bars in the “report” are still below acceptable NOEL levels (which are levels that show no ill effects).

What does this translate to?

A consumer could [try to] eat 900x of any chocolate bar listed in the CR report, in one sitting, and still have no ill-effect from cadmium or lead (but you may feel sick afterwards from all the sugar!)

We even saw Prop 65 increase their MADL baseline levels in the past, as they are arbitrarily set, who is to say this won’t happen again?

NOEL is the baseline to actually use in analyzing findings, and there is no concern despite the “scare for sport” content being posted about chocolate.

To keep in mind: writing this, we are not food scientists, but the folks coming up with NOEL data are NIH and the FDA, who are food scientists (all sources linked below). The folks coming up with MADL take NOEL and divide it by 1,000, arbitrarily. 

Trust data – not agenda-driven report findings.

Written by: Rob Delaney

Worldwide Chocolate



Lead and Cadmium Could Be in Your Dark Chocolate – Consumer Reports

Dietary Cadmium Intake and Sources in the US – PMC (

Cadmium toxicity and treatment: An update – PMC (

Chocolate, “Food of the Gods”: History, Science, and Human Health – PMC (

The mysterious world of Prop 65, part 8: Acceptable risk levels | Consumer products law blog

Agency Review of Toxicology Information in Petitions for Direct Food Additives and Color Additives Used in Food –


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By Red Thalhammer


There is a lot of recent discussion on lead and cadmium in some chocolate brands that I wanted to address: A study from a consumer reports organization has tested mostly large and some small brands on cadmium and lead levels. Out of the 28 tested, 23 bars of chocolate — which were produced by the likes of Trader Joe’s, Tony’s, Pascha, Lily’s, Hu, Hershey’s, Godiva, and Lindt to name a few that had super high levels of either lead or cadmium. The smaller premium brands they tested were mostly ok. I’m glad to hear that buying premium quality proofs to be healthy in that regard as well. Antidote was not part of this test, but we do tests ourselves and generally refer to European Standards.

Do you wonder how cadmium and lead gets into chocolate? Cadmium is absorbed through the soil into the trees. All our fine aroma cacao is form Ecuador and luckily Ecuador has not had much problem with cadmium. 

Lead on the other hand is a post harvest issue, and can be prevented with proper and save handling practices. Knowing our farmers, their process and facility of their post-harvest practices, I can say with confidence that there is no issue for the cacao we use at Antidote. 

Please see below test results as for cadmium and lead. (Sorry, we only have them available in spanish).



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By Red Thalhammer


A flavor boost that gives you superpowers. After all cacao is a superfood. At Antidote we say only chocolate high on cacao - low sugar gives you the superpowers.

But hey, what about Stevia and all the alternative sugars and Coconut Palm Sugar??? Are those better or worse for you? 😍 

Do you like Stevia sweetened products? Have you heard that empty sweeteners and artificial sweeteners as Stevia, Erythritol, Monk Fruit rather confuse the body as there is no nutrition and calories in them? They trigger blood sugar levels telling the brain something sweet it coming but then it doesn’t. They wreak havoc on our gut microbiome as well.

Several studies go even further on stevia and artificial sweeteners’ side effects. There’s growing concern that raw stevia herb may harm your kidneys, reproductive system, and cardiovascular system. It may also drop blood pressure to extremely low levels. Bottom line is to always look for natural and whole ingredients.

There is a good book by Michael Pollan called: Food Rules, a #1 New York Times Bestseller. And there are a lot of documentaries out on sugar if you are curious or need a push: The Truth about sugar, Fed Up, Sugar Crash, Sugar Coated, That Sugar Film.

A popular brand on the market features "Stevia sweetened", when you look at the ingredient label though you can see Stevia extract on the end of the list and Erythritol, Dextrin in the beginning meaning the majority of sweetness is coming from those ingredients in the beginning and Stevia is merely used for marketing as people think it is harmless.

We continuously want to believe diet marketed products are better for us, alternative sugar, alternative milks and so on. Just because they are marketed that way doesn’t make it so if we look at humans in a holistic way. There is no shortcut. If one wants to control sugar intake for various reasons, may it be just for wellness and managing energy levels, the best is to either cut out sweeteners entirely or go for products that have lower sugar.

If you want chocolate you could get our 100% cacao bar with bits of dates or with cacao nibs on top. It has 0 sugar. If that is too extreme as it is for many you could work your way up from our 70%, 73% bars to 77% cacao Antidote bars (that translates to 23% sugar) to 84% cacao bar (which means 16% sugar). Imagine a 54% dark chocolate, which seems to be the norm in the industry, that means 46% of that bar is sugar. Almost half the bar!!! Just FYI our Antidote milk chocolate bar has 56% cacao which is quite high for a milk chocolate and has only 20% added sugar. That’s what makes it so delicious.

There is nothing wrong with sugar if used in the right amounts - not as a condiment, more as a spice ;)

Lastly this wouldn’t be complete if we don’t talk about Coconut Palm Sugar, which pops up on the front of chocolate packaging like it makes magic so good for you chocolate. Sugar by any other name is always sugar. It is a more nutritious sugar than refined white sugar for sure, however cane sugar comes in many shades of brown, from unrefined, to panela which is the most unrefined and all of those contain nutrients and the more color the more caramel flavor it contains. All those are available to us in Ecuador where we source our cacao and where we produce Antidote chocolate. Notably Coconut Palm Sugar is produced in South East Asia and has a large carbon footprint traveling half the globe which makes it unsustainable by our standards.

Again, you may know all of that. It is important and it is important to talk about it since the sugar type question comes up again and again.  💖  In that sense have a sweet rest of the day. 😉

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What has Austria to do with Antidote's tastes?

By Red Thalhammer

What has Austria to do with Antidote's tastes?
Back in the days growing up in Austria, the whole family worked together come summertime to serve guests at the lake-side cafe with cool drinks, simple foods and most importantly coffee and the best cakes 😍

That’s what we were known for. My mom is an amazing baker and she would make all classics traditional treats from: “Bauernkrapfen” (farmers-donut that she baked right there to sell warm) to “Buchteln”, to fruit cakes with meringue and such. They were quite amazing and it was no secret ...

In the spirit of the art of desserts and low sugar treats just the way I was raised on, I developed 2 new flavors. 😉 The first one will be another “low sugar” dark milk chocolate flavor and ready to launch in late October. Stay tuned and in the meantime please check out the 15 culinary flavor pairings we offer on our chocolate bars 😍

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By Red Thalhammer


What you likely know is what the cacao percentage number tells you on dark chocolate. So if you have a 70% bar the difference up to 100% is sugar in a classic instance, whichever sugar or sweetener it is.
For a 70% it would be 30% sugar in the bar. A 84% chocolate will have 16% of sugar, a 55% will have shocking 45% sugar – almost half a bar is sugar in this case. Cacao content tells you about sugar content.

What you may not know is that an 85% from one brand can be very different in true potency and flavor to another brand. Because the percentage of cacao no matter if it's 70% or 85% counts for the total cacao percentage - which includes also cacao butter.
Cacao butter is not detrimental for you but the antioxidants and benefits are in the solids and in the beans before separation of butter/solids. A lot of big brands who use lower grade cacao compared to Antidote or other specialty brands have likely more extra fats added. Meaning in order to make the cacao more palatable, extra cacao butter is added to stretch the flavor resulting in a more creamy and less potent bar.
As for added cacao butter there are many brands that use a lot of extra cacao butter and that are marketed as the most healthy choice. If you pay attention you can feel and taste the make up of the bar. Lastly I challenge you to taste and compare and see and feel which brand truly gives you the benefits and energy and mood boost. The way it makes you feel as you eat it, 5 and 10 mins after should tell you more than a thousand words about cacao percentage and the potency & effectiveness of the cacao properties. Trust your feeling after 2 squares. 

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