AVON, Ind. — Katherine Ward believes she has found the answer to her stiff joints and aching muscles in a popular junk food — chocolate. But not just any chocolate, a "healthy chocolate" called Xocai (pronounced "show-sigh).
Ward, who is retired from teaching in Monrovia after 21 years, and her husband, Terry, who is retired from Duke Energy after 35 years, have spent the past year working as Xocai distributors.
The chocolate is made up of Belgian cocoa powder, acai berry, and blueberry through a cold-press process, which preserves its high levels of antioxidants and nutrients.
Ward said the total process takes about 90 steps, and she recommends three servings of Xocai a day for maximum benefits.
Although official studies have yet to be completed, Ward said she has several customers who have seen the benefits from eating Xocai regularly, including weight loss, a balance in the digestive system, sleep benefits, lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol, oral health benefits, and more.
Ward said she and her mother, who both eat Xocai, recently had their cholesterol tested, which revealed their good cholesterol had been elevated.
"That's huge because every doctor around would want to put me on cholesterol medicine," she said.
Another personal benefit that Ward said she has experienced by eating the chocolate is a decrease in the aches and pains she feels upon waking each morning.
The company will only be celebrating its third anniversary this June, but already has 50,000 distributors nationwide.
Ward and her husband learned about Xocai through a naturopathic doctor who had seen results from using the chocolate in her practice, as well as through her husband's dental practice.
"Some people have saved money in the long run by purchasing the chocolate at less of a price than their prescriptions," Ward said, adding that the chocolate doesn't cause unwanted side effects like many medications do.
Clinical Dietitian Carolyn Burdsall, however, said she doesn't recommend that anyone replace their medications with the chocolate.
"There's no real benefit to it," she said. "It's true dark chocolate has some health benefit. If it's taken in the context of an otherwise healthy diet, there's not harm in it, but people need to recognize they can get the same nutrients from many other food items, less expensively, and probably less calories in many cases. I would hate for someone who is receiving traditional treatment to think they could go off of their medications."
Burdsall said she has tasted the chocolate and personally knows Xocai distributors, but said she believes people turn to the candy as an alternative because they're looking for a shortcut.
"We know about fruits, vegetables and exercise," she said. "People want a quick fix, especially if it's packaged in chocolate. It's not a miracle item by any means."
Ward said the chocolate contains all-natural sugar, and fights excessive free radicals in the body that destroy antioxidants, and also provides an extremely high amount of antioxidants.
In fact, Ward said one serving of Xocai chocolate equals half a pound of spinach, one and a half pounds of kidney beans, more than a pound of cherries, almost a pound of beets, and three-quarters of a pound of broccoli.
"I believe the quality of life you have is up to you," Ward said. "We're all going to die, but whether you spend your last 10 years in a nursing home or not is up to you."
Lindsay Jones writes for the Hendricks County Flyer in Avon, Ind.