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 which is 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.
Among different kinds of chocolates, dark chocolate is the healthiest because it is lowest in sugar and it also supplies beneficial antioxidants that are present in much smaller doses of milk and white chocolate. There are 164 calories and 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 of these differ in sugar content but they can be used in cooking and baking interchangeably. 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.
Dark Chocolate Contents You Need to Keep an Eye Out For
When buying dark chocolates, it is best to choose those that are 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 and all of these are acceptable ingredients of dark chocolate.
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 keep an eye for when buying dark chocolates.
To balance dark chocolate’s bitter taste, sugar is often added. 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 have any effect on 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 to soften it as well. But it is also not required in making dark chocolate.
Most of the time, dark chocolates are flavored with extracts, oils, and spices to improve its 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 flavored dark 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, it has become less common to add trans-fat to chocolates, however, manufacturers sometimes still add it to improve consistency and shelf life.
To make sure that the dark chocolate you are buying does not contain trans-fat, check its ingredients list. If you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, it means that it contains trans-fat.
Things to Consider When Buying Dark Chocolates
When buying some dark chocolates in stores, here are some of the things you need to consider to be able to choose the best ones.
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 amount 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 that are 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 your exposure to artificial chemicals and pesticides sprayed on the beans.
The Best Dark Chocolate Brands
Here are some of the best dark chocolate brands that you might want to try.
The dark chocolates of Equal Exchange are all fair-trade and organic. All of them are made with high-quality ingredients as well. They have an Extreme Dark chocolate bar that is made of only four ingredients, contains only 4 grams of sugar, and has 88 percent cocoa.
This is a German chocolatier which ingredients come from Ceres and all of them are 100 percent organic. Vivani’s dark chocolates are processed without alkali and do not contain soy lecithin.
Pacari has a wide selection of dark chocolates including 70%, 85%, and 100%. Most of Pacari’s dark chocolates contain sunflower lecithin except for the 100%. Coconut sugar is used to sweeten the less than 100% cacao bars.
The dark chocolates of Alter Eco are also fair-trade and organic. They have many types of dark chocolate bars that you can choose from. One of the best you can get from them is their Super Blackout bar which is made of 90% cocoa and contains only 3 grams of sugar per serving. That dark chocolate is made of only four ingredients which are cacao beans, cocoa butter, raw cane sugar, and vanilla beans.
The dark chocolates of Pascha are made in an allergen-free facility. It means that their products are free from food allergens like dairy, soy, and wheat. They have different kinds of dark chocolates that have up to 85% cocoa. They use only the essential ingredients in making them such as cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and some fruit.
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 be able to enjoy eating dark chocolates which are rich in antioxidants guilt-free.