I have a standing argument with my husband about chocolate. He continually touts the benefits of chocolate, reading to me each newspaper, magazine or article pluck from the internet he comes across to further buttress his point—chocolate is healthy.
I reply, “It is if it’s eaten in its raw, unprocessed form.”
To which he sighs and rolls his eyes, “You’re wrong.” But to his credit he started to buy dark chocolate, where the cacao was 70% or higher and forgo bars labeled with multiple sugar sources, dairy, and other ingredients which were either difficult to pronounce or required a chemistry background to decipher.
Little can go wrong when you prepare your foods from ingredients closest to their basic form. The more processed the item, generally the less the nutritional benefit. As many of you already know, just because the wrapper says “chocolate” this does not mean you are reaping the benefits derived from chocolate, which in its raw form is a nutrient powerhouse.
Here’s the skinny on chocolate:
Unsweetened chocolate is 100% cacao. It is also called chocolate liquor and it is made from finely roasted cacao nips.
Bittersweet chocolate, also referred too as semi-sweet, extra dark or extra bittersweet chocolate, is 35-99% cacao.
I won’t bother to report on sweet chocolate (15-34% cacao), milk chocolate or white chocolate as all are inferior and fail a rating on the High5 nutrient rich scale.
Breakdown on processing chocolate
- Cacao beans are fermented, dried, cleaned, roasted and shelled to produce the cacao nips, which provide the rich nutrients coveted at the High5Kitchen.
- Cacao nips are ground into a cocoa mass.
- When liquefied, cacao mass creates a chocolate liquor. You will sometimes see “chocolate liquor” listed as an ingredient but more often the chocolate is further processed to produce the coco butter, which is the vegetable fat extracted from the bean. Coco butter does not contain milk.
- Coco powder is the pulverized coca mass with the coco butter removed.
- If you see an ingredient listed as “cocoa solids” it is the nonfat component of the chocolate.
Any good quality dark chocolate will have only sweetener—sugar in some form and, although I prefer that it does not, perhaps a touch of soy lecithin, which is used as an emulsifier.
Bottom-line – real chocolate versus chocolate candy
Look for Dark chocolate 70% cacao or more with only coco butter and sugar as additional ingredients. Candies like Snickers Dark are more flavored candy than chocolate.
Here is an example:
Green & Black’s Organic Dark 85%
- Organic chocolate, organic cocoa butter, organic cocoa, organic raw cane sugar, organic vanilla
First, 85% cocoa is excellent, rating High5 thumbs up for listing the amount of cacao, for using organic cacao. Second, organic cocoa butter and organic cocoa, rating a High5 thumbs up although I am not sure why the company would process the fat out of the cocoa and then add it. Organic raw cane sugar while not a nutrient rich sweetener fairs a better rating that evaporated cane juice (less processing), no rating. Organic vanilla, rating High5 thumbs up.
Newman’s Own Super Dark Chocolate 70% cocoa
- Organic dark chocolate (organic chocolate liquor), organic evaporated cane juice, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla.
First, 70% cocoa is good, although it could be higher. Nevertheless, it rates a High5 thumbs up for listing the amount of cacao, for using organic cacao and chocolate liquor, which I am assuming means the company did not further process the chocolate by removing the fat and then adding it back in. Second, organic cane sugar juice is not a nutrient rich sweetener—dates would add additional nutrient punch, no rating. Organic soy lecithin–not a particular fan of soy lecithin but it is organic, no rating. Organic vanilla, rates High5 thumbs up.
- Semi sweet chocolate (chocolate, sugar, skim milk, lactose, milkfat, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, artificial flavoring) peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, milkfat, less1% partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, chocolate artificial flavor.
First, there is no way to know how much cacao there is in Snickers Dark (product of Mars, Inc.) since it is not listed, rating a High5 thumbs down. Second, in the states, Snicker bars are loaded with GMOs (sugar, corn and soy are the top 3 GMO crops) although European bars ostensibly are GMO free, rating a High5 thumbs down for failure to label GMO and use of GMO ingredients. Third, sugar is listed five times in its various forms (highlighted in bold type), rating another High5 thumbs down. Finally, fats are derived not from cocoa butter but from milkfats and hydrogenated soybean oil, rating another High5 thumbs down. And artificial flavorings? That’s another blog!
Rating High5’s Chocolate Decadence
Chocolate Decadence is made from the following ingredients:
- Cacao nibs and cacao powder
Additions to this contain variations of the following ingredients
- Fresh ground flax-seed (providing omega 3 fats)
- Chia seed
- Fresh squeezed mandarin, orange or Meyer Lemon
- Vanilla extract
- Almonds, fresh ground into meal
- Unsweetened coconut flakes (ground)
- Dried blueberries, cranberries, dried orange peel, dried lemon peel
The Recipe: Chocolate Decadence with Blueberries
- 1 cup cashews
- ¼ cup organic cacao nibs (or 1/8 cup cacao powder in place of cacao nibs)
- 1/8 cup cacao powder
- 4 dates, pitted
- 1/8 cup dried blueberries
- 1 T grated Meyer lemon peel
- ½ Meyer Lemon (1-2 T juice)
- Pinch of salt
- Ground almonds (1/2 cup) or
- Ground unsweetened organic coconut flakes (1/2 cup)
- In food processor (or spice/nut grinder) grind cashews, cacao nibs and dates.
- Add dried blueberries and grated Meyer lemon peel and mix until the ingredients congeal.
- Add salt and Meyer lemon juice and mix thoroughly
- Grind coconut flakes or almonds for rolling.
- Have a bowl of cool water handy and drip fingers before forming each ball; then roll in coconut flakes or almond meal.
You can make variations of this recipe by
- adding 2 tablespoons of ground flax-seed or Chia seed (add ½ T more of juice when adding ground seeds)
- fresh squeezed orange and orange peel in place of lemon juice
- dried cranberries exchanged for blueberries, etc.
The Motley Five Rate Chocolate Decadence with Blueberries
I’m happy to say that five of my friends, honest to a fault if one is sensitive and as varied in what they eat as they are in their respective life endeavors, joys, jobs and choices of foods and restaurants they inhabit, taste-tested this recipe. To protect their identities each chose a “handle”.
Roda – junk food junkie. There is nothing I can do with her. She often subsists on a 12” Butterfinger with a giant slurpy for lunch. Here are her ratings:
“It’s a 4”.
“How do you rate the other candy you eat,” I asked.
“Three Musketeers, Rolos and Kisses get a 5 but Almond Joys and Charleston Chews get a 3 and 2 respectively. Do I get the plate of chocolates to take home?”
“Yes, yes you do,” I replied thinking this may be the only nutrient dense food she’ll eat for a while.
Cat – easy to please, willing to try any food, a traveler, likes to eat out.
“I’d give it a five. It’s rich, decadent—definitely satisfies a craving for dark chocolate. It’s sweet but mild not strong like raw sugar or abrupt like those awful bars sweetened with corn syrups.”
Wow, I thought, this guy knows his stuff, speaks like a true chocolate connoisseur. Besides, he gave the Chocolate Decadence a 5!
Sipper – very particular about her food, healthy foodie, up on the latest nutrition, often eats raw. “A five but it’s got caffeine.”
Flygirl – likes real food—no junk food. Rarely seen eating out except at high-end restaurants with first class ingredients—local, seasonal, fresh.
“Five. I like it. Rich, decadent—good name. Can’t eat a lot of it—one or two pieces. Perfect for after dinner. Would pair well with full-bodied red wine –a California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Handle – The last taste-tester (there’s always one in every crowd) chose as his handle “Handle” which of course resulted in a long conversation regarding the lack of creativity to which he replied, “I won’t forget my handle.”
“Good point,” I said. He rated it a 4 saying it was only surpassed by Snicker Dark to which I just grimaced!
Finally, my husband and I sat down to taste test Black&Green’s, Newman’s and the High5’s Chocolate Decadence.
Result: Black&Green came in at a 5; Chocolate Decadence at 4.5 and Newman’s at a 3.
Enjoy, underindulge and have a happy Valentine’s Day!