The chocolate section of the supermarket can be a difficult place to navigate. It’s filled with brightly wrapped and tempting chocolate indulgences, ranging from the healthy to not so healthy options. Here are our top 5 tips to allow for the occasional sweet treat without feeling the guilt.
1.Cacao vs cocoa – understand the difference.
The main ingredient of chocolate is cacao powder made from the raw cacao bean (see the picture below). In its natural state cacao powder has many health promoting properties, which come from the plant polyphenols. Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants, magnesium and has been shown to have mood enhancing therapeutics[i]. Cocoa however, is a more refined version of cacao. It is often highly heat processed and mixed with added sugar, lowering its nutritional value. When selecting a chocolate to ensure cacao (not cocoa) is at the top of the ingredient list. A good quality chocolate will use organic raw cacao as the base of its chocolate.
2.Go dark – aim for 70% or above.
The darker the chocolate, the better! The cacao percentage indicates how much cacao goodness is in your bar. The higher the percentage of cacao the less likely your bar is filled with sugar, additives or other processed ingredients. We recommend finding a bar with 70% or above. Pana Chocolate’s ‘eighty bar’ is a great choice for those new to dark chocolate. It’s smooth and creamy texture will win over all milk chocolate lovers.
3.Choose quality (not quantity).
Always choose a high-quality chocolate made from organic and well-sourced ingredients. Enjoy smaller amounts of a quality chocolate, over bulk amounts of a highly refined alternative.
4.Go carob crazy.
Not a fan of dark chocolate? Let us introduce you to carob, a delicious alternative to cacao. Carob is a naturally sweet ingredient that comes from the pod of a carob tree. Unlike cacao, carob is caffeine free, which makes it a great option for children or those who are caffeine sensitive. The Carob Kitchen create a very delicious ‘Banjo’ bear. This chocolate alternative has no added sugar or artificial ingredients and comes in the perfect serving size.
5.Read the label and supercharge your chocolate.
Add extra nutrition to your chocolate by selecting healthy flavour combinations and avoiding refined sugar. Look for quality raw ingredients such as coconut, goji berries, cacao nibs nuts and seeds over biscuits, crisps or other processed chocolates. Choose natural sweeteners and flavours such as cinnamon, coconut nectar, or maple syrup over chemical additives, sweeteners or refined sugar options. Below are two examples of a chocolate ingredient lists. The first is Pana Chocolate’s Eighty, which is an example of a healthy selection. This list has only three ingredients and contains raw and organic cacao powder. The second is a popular unnamed chocolate bar and is an example of a chocolate to avoid. It contains artificial flavours, sugar, cocoa and vegetable fats.
1. Healthy chocolate ingredient list: Raw Organic Ingredients: cacao solids 80% min (cacao butter & cacao powder), dark agave nectar.
2. Not so healthy chocolate ingredient list Milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegetable fats (palm, shea), emulsifier (E442), flavourings.
The other way to ensure you are enjoying a healthy chocolate is to make it yourself.
Below is a delicious recipe for chocolate bliss balls (picture from sugarfreemom.com)
* ½ cup raw cacao
* 1 cup walnuts crushed
* ¼ cup coconut oil
* ¼ cup maple syrup
* 1 tsp cinnamon powder
* ½ cup shredded coconut and extra for decoration
* 1 tablespoon nut butter of choice
* ¼ cup 70% > dark chocolate cut up into small pieces
* Place all wet ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
* Add in the rest of the ingredients and combine well.
* Roll the batter into 12 small balls.
* Roll each ball in the extra coconut.
* Place in the fridge to set for half an hour.
We hope you enjoy this recipe. If you find this shopping guide useful, share it with your friends.
[i] Scholey, A. and Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 71(10), pp.665-681