Let’s face it: chocolate is a decadent, hard-to-resist treat. Although not all chocolate is created equal, there are many health benefits to chocolate, specifically chocolate products with high percentages of cocoa. Here at Made In Nature, cocoa is a staple in our products. To be more specific, Non-GMO, Organic, Fair-Trade cocoa is the staple that allows us to make supersnacks that are not only delicious, but also packing in nutritional benefits. Still not convinced you need to eat more cocoa? Keep reading – the facts are mighty sweet.
When you go to the grocery store to pick up some chocolate chips for baking (or to just snack on straight from the bag —no judgment here) —you may have noticed that your options continue to expand. There are many varieties to choose from, ranging from white chocolate to dark chocolate. So, what is the difference between these chocolates? Let’s get into it.
Milk ChocolateMilk chocolate is a fan favorite, and for good reason: it’s soft in texture, sweet to taste, and very versatile. Milk chocolate must contain at least 12% milk (dairy milk or a milk alternative), and must also have a minimum of 10% chocolate liquor (which is a non-alcoholic mixture of cocoa solids and cocoa butters.) Milk chocolate often contains added sugars, making it a sweet treat and a great addition to baking.
Dark ChocolateDark chocolate is similar to milk chocolate in its composition -- minus the milk, of course. It contains at least 15% chocolate liquor, but most dark chocolate actually contains close to 50% chocolate liquor! Dark chocolate also has less added sugars than milk chocolate, meaning it has a more bitter taste, but more health benefits (we’ll dive into that later.)
White ChocolateAlthough white chocolate does not contain any of the cocoa solids like its milk and dark counterparts, white chocolate does contain at least 20% cocoa fat (a pale-yellow, edible fat extracted from the cocoa bean.) The rest of its contents are mostly milk fat, milk solids, and added sugars, meaning it lacks the traditional flavors of cocoa. Instead, it takes on a creamy, buttery flavor profile that is a delicious addition to confections.
Baking ChocolateChocolate that is specifically used in baking takes on a different flavor than milk, white, and even dark chocolate – it is quite bitter and often has limited added sugars. Baking chocolate, commonly known as “unsweetened chocolate,” is made from ground cocoa nibs. You may see it in the store under the sub names of “bittersweet” and “semisweet.” Bittersweet chocolate, which must contain at least 70% cacao, is best used in cookies, brownies, and any chocolate baked goods. It has no added sugars, so it is just pure cacao! Semisweet chocolate, on the other hand, has at least 60% cacao, and it slightly sweeter than bittersweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate has some added sugars, making it a great addition to baking, or even just snacking!
BENEFITS OF ADDING MORE COCOA TO YOUR DIETCocoa has been used for thousands of years for consumption, medicine, and even as a form of currency! Cocoa beans are the seeds of the cacao tree, a tropical plant with origins near the equatorial region. People have been consuming cocoa in food and beverage for thousands of years, but the creation of chocolate as we know it was a later discovery made by the Spanish. They were supposedly the first group of people to obtain the chocolate powder from the cocoa beans, and began adding sugar to it to remove the bitterness. This led to the creation of chocolate beverages, solid chocolate foods, and chocolate coated foods.Fast forward to today, chocolate is just about everywhere. You can find it in cereals, protein bars, and even in milk! This may be because we just love the taste, but there are also many health benefits to adding more cocoa to your diet. As mentioned above, not all chocolate is created equally, and this is referring to taste and nutritional value. Chocolate products containing a higher percentage of cacao, particularly chocolate with at least 70% cacao, are the healthiest. This means dark chocolate is your best bet if you are looking to extract the most nutrients from your sweet treat. Milk chocolate, if it has a higher concentration of cacao, can provide many similar benefits to dark chocolate, but the added milk and sugars can reduce the nutritional value.So, why does the cocoa content make a difference? Well, it’s simple: the higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the amount of flavanols! Flavanols are a type of plant nutrition that are particularly abundant in cacao beans. Flavanols have shown evidence of lowering blood pressure, fighting cell damage, and increasing blood flow to the heart and the brain. Although some processes of chocolate creation can destroy flavanols (due to fermentation, roasting, and alkalization), dark chocolate still contains a significantly higher amount in comparison to its chocolate counterparts thanks to its minimal processing.Not only do cocoa-based foods, specifically dark chocolate, contain a high amount of flavanols, they also have an abundance of minerals. Iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc are a few of the important minerals you will find in dark chocolate – the benefits of these minerals range from improving sleep quality to supporting a healthy immune system, meaning chocolate makes a great addition to your diet (in moderation, of course.) To top it off, dark chocolate can also boost your mood. Cocoa is high in polyphenols, which are essentially an antioxidant found in plant-foods. These polyphenols work to lower cortisol (aka the stress hormone.) So, next time you’re feeling down in the dumps or stressed out, reach for some dark chocolate!
HOW TO EAT COCOA
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