Can I Eat White Chocolate If I'm Allergic to Chocolate?

White chocolate isn't really chocolate, so you may be able to enjoy it.

White chocolate
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Question: Can I eat white chocolate if I'm allergic or sensitive to chocolate?

Answer: It's likely that you can, although the answer depends on why, specifically, you're allergic or sensitive to chocolate (see Do Chocolate Allergies Really Exist?).

A little background on chocolate ingredients and production is in order.

What Is Chocolate, Anyway?

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are grown in tropical regions in west Africa, Central and South America, and in parts of southeast Asia.

In order to turn these raw cacao beans into chocolate, they're processed into two major components: cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter is nearly pure fat, while cocoa powder contains proteins, phenolic compounds, caffeine, sugars, minerals, and flavor compounds.

If you're truly allergic to a component of chocolate, your allergy most likely involves a component of the cocoa powder, not the fat in the cocoa butter. The chocolate we eat is mainly cocoa powder (which contains most of the flavor), with sugar and cocoa butter (plus other ingredients, like milk and nuts) added.

White Chocolate: Possibly a Better Alternative

Despite its name, white chocolate doesn't really contain any real chocolate. True gourmet white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, with sugar, vanilla extract and usually some milk powder thrown in.

Therefore, if your allergy or sensitivity involves some protein or other compound in cocoa powder, you should be able to handle pure white chocolate just fine.

However, most commercially made white chocolate isn't perfectly pure, and this can cause a problem for people with other allergies or sensitivities.

First off, any white chocolate you purchase almost certainly has been produced on lines shared with regular chocolate. So if your allergy or sensitivity is severe, you may have to resort to making your own.

Next, as I said above, white chocolate generally includes sugar (or another sweetener), and usually includes milk ingredients. Commercially produced white chocolate often contains soy lecithin, as well. If you have allergies or sensitivities to any of these ingredients, you'll need to steer clear.

Many commercially produced candies are made on shared lines with other major allergens. Those with peanut allergies, tree nut allergies, wheat allergies, corn allergies, or celiac disease should be sure to check for cross-contamination on manufacturing lines before eating high-risk foods like chocolates.

Next Steps

What if you're pretty sure none of these other foods are problematic for you — your only problem is chocolate, and you'd like to try adding white chocolate to your diet?

Your next step is to give your internist or allergist a call. She can advise you of any precautions you may need to take given the nature of your prior reactions (whether they were allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities) or arrange for in-office testing.

Source:

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. "Chapter 12: Sugars, Chocolate, and Confectionary." Rev. Ed. New York: Scribner. 2004.

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