Dark chocolates are an amazing healthy snack. They are extremely beneficial to the body as they contain antioxidants and numerous minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium.
Some research findings have suggested that dark chocolates help lower the risk heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance and improve brain function. Other benefits include a more stable blood sugar and minimized appetite whereby one can maintain a healthy weight.
There are many brands of dark chocolates and this article seeks to give some good perspective when it comes to choosing some good dark chocolate.
What are chocolates?
Chocolates are a brown colored snack that is made from roasted and ground cacao seeds. They are presented in the form of bars, blocks and candies that can be eaten directly, or in pastes that can be used in preparation of other foods.
Chocolates are among the most popular foods worldwide. Many baked foods are prepared using it includingcakes, puddings and deserts. They are also a favorite drink for many people, and can be taken as cold or hot refreshing drinks.
Cocoa is believed to have originated in America. They are however very popular in West African countries like Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire that produce it commercially.
Normally, most chocolates are manufactured to be a sweet and delightful snack. The cacao seeds are however not that sweet initially. They have a strong unpleasant taste and must be fermented, dried and roasted to develop that final delightful flavor.
What is dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is chocolate containing cocoa solids and butter that does not contain milk. It is also referred to as plain, sour or black chocolate.
It is a healthier alternative compared to other types of chocolates like milk and white chocolates. It is also produced using higher percentages cocoa usually 70 percent and above.
Dark chocolate can be used as it is or incorporated in preparation of other foods and drinks.
Key ingredients to look out for in dark chocolates
You’ll sure find the following ingredients in almost all dark chocolate brands.
Dark chocolates will contain more cocoa than other types of chocolates which makes it a healthier choice. One should look out for dark chocolate brands with the highest percentages of cocoa, ideally 70 percent and above. Such a chocolate will offer more health benefits than those with lower percentages.
It is also very important to choose dark chocolates whose cocoa has been produced organically. This will go a long way in supporting organic farmers all over the world and also ensuring that you don’t expose yourself to artificial chemicals.
Unsweetened cocoa products taste bitter and sugar has to be thrown in to make dark chocolates a yummy treat. It is important to note that the sweet sugar taste will not be pronounced in dark chocolates as it is in milk and white chocolates. This is obviously because the cocoa content is much higher than sugar. So, when choosing a dark chocolate, go for one with that does not list sugar among the first main ingredients. Higher sugar levels denote lower levels of cocoa in the dark chocolate.
This is an optional additive used in the making of dark chocolates. It is generally considered to be a safe food additive. However, soy can be genetically modified, and as such people that are trying to avoid genetically modified foods should be on the lookout for this ingredient in dark chocolates.
Milk is an ingredient in many dark chocolate brands. It may be in smaller quantities and sometimes even in traces.
Milk is a major allergen and its unfortunate that one can’t tell whether a dark chocolate brand contains some milk by reading the ingredient list.
It is possible that some traces of milk will find their way to the chocolates that are meant to be milk free.This is unintentional as such chocolates are manufactured in plants that also handle milk products.
So, if you are allergic to milk, look out for the following advisory messages on dark chocolates so as not to jeopardize your health.
- Contains milk
- May contain some milk
- May contain traces of milk
- Made in a plant that handles milk
It is important to look out for the overall ingredients in dark chocolates. A shorter ingredient list is to be preferred. Longer lists often denote that fillers have been used, some of which may not be healthy. Additional flavoring like orange essence or vanilla may actually make the chocolate less healthy. So, it is important to check out plain dark chocolate brands and options.
Dutched dark chocolates
This is a process in the manufacturing of chocolate whereby the cocoa is treated with an alkali. Its intense bitter flavor is reduced and its color enhanced. This process however reducesflavanol content in chocolates.
Some studies have suggested that alkalization destroys antioxidants and as such dark chocolates labeled as processed with alkali should be avoided.
The following brands are a good choice
This company produces dark chocolate bars with organic cocoa pods from Ecuador. They produce a range of chocolates that are dark, smooth with an edge extra butter. They are an excellent treat sealed with a sweet-salty finish. They contain at least 70% cocoa with some of their brands like the Dark Blackout bar having 85% cocoa. Other ingredients include cane sugar and vanilla beans.
This company takes pride in producing dark chocolates from organic cocoa. Their chocolates are also milk, soy, gluten, and nut free. They contain up to 85% cocoa with other key ingredients such as cane sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter.
The Antidote Company produces an organic range of chocolates. The best part is that they actually contain no sugar. The chocolates are named after Greek goddesses with each bar having an elaborate illustration of the goddess and her relationship with the particular bar brand. They contain up to 70% cocoa content with some hitting the 100% mark.
This company also does take pride in producing organic and fair-trade chocolates. The chocolates are soy and gluten free but may contain traces of milk and nuts They contain 70% cocoa, with some bars exceeding this level. Also present in them is raw organic sugar and vanilla beans.
What should you look out for when buying dark chocolates?
There are obviously many other amazing dark chocolate brands in the market and this list is not at all exhaustive.
One should ensure that the dark chocolate they do buy has the following:
- Very high levels of cocoa with a 70% minimum
- One that is organic
- One that has not been alkalized
- One with minimal ingredients as many additives reduce health benefits
Dark chocolates are extremely beneficial to the body. They contain antioxidants and numerous minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium.
Dark chocolates do contain high levels of fat and calories.The recommended serving per day according to experts is roughly an ounce to two, or 30-60grams. So, go on and exercise some moderation when indulging in dark chocolates, as is the case with any other food or snack.