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Health by Chocolate


"Dieting?  Don't Forget the Chocolate!"

 

"Excellent News! Chocolate Can Help You Lose Weight!"

 

"Dark Chocolate May Guard Against Stroke."

 

 

So, is it true?

Is chocolate really good for us?  Well, the answer is “it depends”…and it largely depends on the type of chocolate we are eating.  There are a few things you need to know!

 

Where does chocolate come from?

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, contained in cacao pods, which grow on cacao trees.  These cacao pods are the size of a football and each pod contains up to 50 cacao beans.  Because the pods will not fall from the tree, they must be harvested by hand…a very manual process.  From there, the beans are fermented and dried, and then transported to the chocolate manufacturer, where they are processed in a variety of ways.  The beans can be processed into cocoa nibs, and then ground into something called chocolate liquor (or chocolate liquid).  This liquid can be further processed into cocoa powder and cocoa butter.  The chocolate liquor can also be processed with more cocoa butter (and other ingredients) to make different varieties of chocolate.

 

 

Confused yet?

To keep it really simple, the cacao beans are harvested, and then processed into a variety of products including cocoa powder and many varieties of chocolate!

In its pure form!

You now know that chocolate is made from raw cacao (which is the purest form of chocolate...raw and unprocessed) and it's extremely healthy…but it is NOT sweet.  Raw cacao includes antioxidants that have powerful health benefits.  They help improve blood pressure (help increase oxygen flowing through your arteries), help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol), and prevent heart disease by protecting against hardening of arteries.  Believe it or not, pure cacao can even help prevent tooth decay because of chemicals that fight harmful bacteria in our mouth.  What's next…chocolate toothpaste?  With all of this, how can chocolate be bad??

Well, let’s just say that NOT ALL CHOCOLATE IS CREATED EQUAL!

Since pure cacao is so bitter, it's processed and other ingredients are added (sugar, milk powder, flavorings, emulsifying agents and others) to provide the taste and texture we love.  Unfortunately, the powerful nutritional benefits of the cacao are diminished as more processing occurs and ingredients are added.  Dark chocolate retains more cacao, meaning it retains more of the health benefits.  For example, if you see 70% on a bar of dark chocolate, that means 70% of the chocolate is made up of the cacao.  In this case, only 30% of the chocolate is made up of other ingredients.

Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits because it contains a much smaller amount of cacao and includes a lot of added sugar and other ingredients.

When buying something to satisfy your next chocolate craving, here are some things to keep in mind:

 

  • Dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet!  The more cacao (the higher the %), the more health benefits!  If you are new to dark chocolate, start with 60%.  Then, as soon as your taste buds are ready, move up towards 70% or higher.
  • Dark chocolate has less sugar and more fiber, iron and other nutrients vs. milk chocolate.
  • Milk chocolate may not satisfy that sweet tooth!  It may sound crazy, but the added sugars in milk chocolate can cause your blood sugar to spike and actually make you crave more sugar, fatty foods and carbs.
  • White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids or cocoa powder and is loaded with added sugars.  If you are trying to satisfy a chocolate craving, put this one at the bottom of the list.
  • Use caution with “sugar free” chocolate.  To make it sugar free, sugar alcohol is used, which isn’t absorbed by the body and can create a laxative effect…not the result most of us are looking for!
  • One final tip:  look for dark chocolate WITHOUT alkali in the ingredient list.  When cocoa is processed with alkali, it is said to be “dutch” processed.  Dutch processing enhances the color of the cocoa, reduces its bitterness and gives it a smoother texture.  Unfortunately, this also dramatically reduces the nutritional content of the chocolate (by as much as 90%).

 

Zonya Says...

 

Don't be fooled by the packaging!  Just because a package says its "dark chocolate" doesn't mean it's the health-boosting kind we are looking for.

Two rules of thumb:  choose 60% or higher cocoa, and read the ingredients label.  Avoid products that are "processed with alkali" or “dutch processed,” or that include partially hydrogenated fats (hint:  chocolates with creamy fillings often have these undesirable fats.)  You may be shocked to know Dove chocolate and Hershey's Special Dark are processed with alkali, and are NOT the healthy choice you think they are!  Better choices (following the rules we've stated above) include the 60% or higher dark chocolate made by Ghirardelli, Lindt, and Moser Roth, (found at Aldi stores).  Also know that good ole' baking cocoa powder, is 100% cocoa, making it a smart and flavorful nutritional boost to add to smoothies, oatmeal and baked goods.

Bottom Line:  Don't just add more dark chocolate to your diet because of the health benefits.  Instead, REPLACE the less desirable "sweet treats" you are currently choosing with one ounce of smartly chosen dark chocolate.  Think one ounce isn't enough?  Pair it with berries (fresh, frozen or dried) and you have a nutritional -- and satisfying -- one-two punch!

 

Dark Chocolate Bark...super-easy sweet treat!

IMG_2930Get creative and come up with your own flavor combinations (and of course, tell us about it)!  This would be great at your holiday gathering or even better, wrap it up - it works great as a gift too!

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pomegranates and Orange Zest

Mexican Spiced Dark Chocolate

 

Other Ideas for Dark Chocolate:

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn-Get-Real-Wichita-Kansas

 

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries-Get-Real-Wichita-Kansas

 

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 

 

 

 

Leave A Comment


23 Responses to Health by Chocolate

      • Yes, my daughter turned us on to the Moser Roth brand at Aldi. I also like the individual packing portions that it comes in.

        Thanks for the good information. I never knew what ‘Dutch processed’ meant and was very surprised to learn about the alkali.

  1. Yeah Patty can not wait to hear what you learned and to try the Dark Chocolate Moose! We have a regular version and a Vegan option for Thursday!

    • We were too, so sorry to disappoint you about white chocolate. But, there are so many ideas of delicious sweet treats you can do with dark chocolate (here is a link to some of our favorites!), we don’t think you will miss it too much!

  2. So much information packed into this article. I’m a bit disappointed to learn that my “Special Dark” is not that special after all.

  3. I was surprised to see that Aldi sells a healthy dark chocolate. A smaller amount of dark chocolate can satisfy my chocolate craving. I am disappointed with white chocolate.

    • Robin – thank you for the feedback, and we agree…a small piece of dark chocolate can definitely satisfy our chocolate cravings too! So proud of you for reading the label and finding a healthy dark chocolate at Aldi!

  4. Krista and Zonya, Thank you for the tips on making this dish Vegan. We had a Vegan and regular version, hands down the class liked the Vegan version made with firm tofu and almond milk. I have to admit I also liked the Vegan version better. Thanks for the tips.

  5. This is a great article, thank you!. I am a fan of the Moser Roth dark chocolate. About a year ago I thought I was doing myself a favor by switching from 70% to the 85% Dark Cocoa. . My husband stayed with 70%. After reading this article, I went to the refrigerator to compare both labels. I was shocked to see “cocoa processed with alkali” on my 85% Moser Roth Dark Cocoa bars!!! The 70% Moser Roth, as you noted, are a good choice, no alkalis. So I guess, higher isn’t always better and its a good idea to read those labels!! No more 85% MR for me.Thank you for this tip!

    • Thank you for the comment – you are so right, reading ingredient labels is really the key to knowing what you are getting! We actually saw a comment online when looking more into this that someone said Moser Roth changed the label (or changed the recipe) on the 85% version because it didn’t used to say “processed with alkali”. Thank you for your comment and making us all aware of this!

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