Chocolate is indeed a delicious sweet treat that is loved by many people. It is one of the best candy treats out there. However, most chocolate treats you can buy today contain lots of saturated fats, sugar, and other ingredients which are not healthy.
If you are a chocolate lover but want to eat healthy, no worries because there’s a healthy kind of chocolate you can eat guilt-free: dark chocolate. But you need to keep in mind that all types of chocolate, good for you or not, still contain sugar and saturated fats, which are not healthy when eaten in large amounts.
Dark chocolate is the healthiest among different chocolates because it is the lowest in sugar. It also supplies beneficial antioxidants that are present in much smaller doses of milk and white chocolate. There are 164 calories, 10.86 grams of fat in an ounce of dark chocolate, and 6.25 grams of these are saturated. It also contains 10.4 grams of added sugar. In comparison, an ounce of milk chocolate contains almost 17 grams of added sugar.
Dark chocolate is made by adding fat and sugar to cocoa, but it is different from milk chocolate because it contains little to no milk solids. It is also called bittersweet and semisweet chocolate. Both differ in sugar content, but they can be used interchangeably in cooking and baking. You might wonder how you’ll be able to know if a bar of chocolate is dark or not. To determine this, try to select one with a 70 percent or higher total cocoa content.
Dark chocolate is popular for its powerful antioxidant activity. Compared to many high-antioxidant fruits such as acai berries and blueberries, it has been shown that dark chocolate has a greater antioxidant effect. Also, based on studies, eating dark chocolate has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease as well as improved brain function.
Nutrients in Dark Chocolate
What makes dark chocolate the healthiest chocolate is the healthy nutrients that have a powerful antioxidant effect on our bodies. According to the food data by the United States Department of Agriculture, consuming a bar of dark chocolate (approximately 100 grams) can provide you with the following:
|Dietary fiber||11 grams|
Dark Chocolate Contents You Need to Keep an Eye Out For
When buying dark chocolates, it is best to choose those made with as few ingredients as possible. The best dark chocolates are made with chocolate liquor or cocoa listed as the first ingredient. Several forms of cocoa may be on the list, like cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter, all of which are acceptable dark chocolate ingredients.
There are also other ingredients added to dark chocolate to improve its flavor, appearance, and shelf life. Some of these ingredients are safe, while some can harm the quality of the chocolate. Here are some of the ingredients you need to check when buying dark chocolates.
Sugar is often added to balance dark chocolate’s bitter taste. It is an important component of dark chocolate; however, other brands go overboard in adding this ingredient. It’s difficult to find dark chocolate that does not contain sugar. When buying one, choose a brand that does not have sugar listed first on the ingredients list. Or choose one that lists sugar last. Also, keep in mind that the higher the cocoa percentage, the lower the sugar content is.
Lecithin is sometimes added to dark chocolates as well as an emulsifier. It can keep the cocoa and cocoa butter from separating, and it can also help in blending flavors. Lecithin is derived commonly from soybeans, and it is usually listed as soy lecithin on the label. It is used in such small amounts in chocolate, and it does not affect health or quality. But when you are selecting a dark chocolate brand, remember that lecithin is not necessary to make chocolate.
High-quality dark chocolates should not contain any milk. But there’s an exception which is milk fat. Milk fat is butter that has had its moisture and non-fat solids removed. It is sometimes added to dark chocolate to add flavor and soften it. But it is also not required in making dark chocolate.
Dark chocolates are often flavored with extracts, oils, and spices to improve their taste. The most common flavoring used in dark chocolates is vanilla. On labels, it’s kind of difficult to differentiate which are natural and artificial. Therefore, if you want to buy dark flavored chocolates, choose those which are organic to make sure the flavors used are not artificial.
If you see dark chocolate that contains trans-fat, do not buy it. It’s because the consumption of trans fat is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Today, adding trans-fat to chocolates has become less common; however, manufacturers sometimes still add it to improve consistency and shelf life.
Check its ingredients list to ensure that the dark chocolate you are buying does not contain trans-fat. If you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, it means that it contains trans-fat.
Things to Consider When Buying Dark Chocolates
When buying dark chocolates, here are some things you need to consider to be able to choose the best ones.
Ensure that the dark chocolate you are purchasing has more than 70% cocoa in it.
Cocoa is the First Ingredient
Also, ensure that cocoa or any form of cocoa used in making dark chocolate is on the top of the ingredient list.
Avoid Unnecessary Ingredients
Some dark chocolate brands might mix in trans-fat or artificial flavorings to enhance the product’s flavor. However, this is simply a deviation from authentic dark chocolate. Also, look out for other unnecessary items, such as sugar, in the brand of dark chocolate you are buying.
Do Not Buy Alkalized or Dutched Dark Chocolate
The process of treating chocolate with alkali or alkalization is called Dutching. It is used to change the color of the chocolate and decrease its bitterness. However, according to several studies, this method can significantly reduce the number of antioxidants in chocolate. Therefore, you need to avoid chocolate that has been Dutched. To do this, check the ingredients list for something like “cocoa processed with alkali.”
Go for Fair-Trade and Organic Chocolate
When buying dark chocolates, choose those made from fair-trade and organic cacao beans as much as possible. It’s because growing and harvesting cacao is a difficult process. When you buy fair-trade dark chocolate, you can ensure that the cacao bean farmer earns a fair price for the product. It’s also great to choose organic dark chocolate because it can reduce exposure to artificial chemicals and pesticides sprayed on the beans.
The Best Dark Chocolate Brands
Here are some of the best dark chocolate brands you might want to try:
|Equal Exchange||Vivani||Alter Eco||Pascha Chocolate||Hu Dark Chocolate|
|Total Carb (grams)||12||13.1||10||N/A||13|
|Total Carb (grams)||14|
These are some of the best dark chocolate brands you can find in the market today. Just keep in mind that when choosing a bar of dark chocolate, it should be high in cocoa, no unnecessary ingredients are present, and make sure that it’s fair-trade and organic. This way, you will enjoy eating dark chocolates that are rich in antioxidants guilt-free.