Wednesday, April 02, 2014
wholefood step-by-step: #13 upgrade your chocolate fix
Tough step I know. The problem with the majority of commercial chocolate is that it is...you guessed it, highly processed and can contain unhealthy ingredients like huge amounts of refined cane sugar, hydrogenated fats and palm oil.
And as you know, processing strips ingredients, such as the cocoa bean, of any natural, nourishing qualities they may have began with and the end result is a product rather than a food. A product that can be marketed and lots of sales and advertising dollars made, meanwhile what's sold is actually really bad for human health. I'm sounding cynical now. Sorry about that! Back on track.
The story of chocolate begins with the cocoa bean. In its natural state the cocoa bean is a bitter little pill to swallow so, it is fermented, then roasted, then ground into cocoa mass which is further processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter before being mixed with sweetener and fat to create chocolate in the form you know and love.
Tips for buying wholefood chocolate
* Go for dark or raw
Dark and raw chocolate contain the highest percentage of cocoa compared to milk or white chocolate, it is the cocoa that holds health benefits such as flavonoids that fight free radicals. Studies have shown that eating a few squares of dark chocolate a week as part of a healthy diet can be beneficial to heart health plus it can keep you happy by stimulating the production of endorphins which are 'happy' hormones.
Raw cacao, as the name suggests is made from cocoa beans that are cold pressed therefore their nourishing properties remain in tact. In addition, raw chocolate is made with few ingredients all of which have nourishing properties, typically cacao, cacoa butter and wholefood sweetener. To read more about raw cacao and its health benefits head over to this post on Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar site.
Loving Earth is my fave raw chocolate range, notice I said range! I can't really decide which one I like most. Having said that, I'm not a huge fan of raw chocolate it doesn't satisfy in the way dark does.
* Avoid soy lecithin
What on earth is soy lecithin anyway? It is a highly processed ingredient derived from soybeans so part of the problem with it is the likelihood of it being made from genetically modified soy. And what is it doing in chocolate? (and in soooo many other processed foods) it serves as an emulsifier in chocolate, an emulsifier helps oil/fat and water bind together to become the smooth and velvety texture we so love about chocolate. Alexx Stuart posted about this on her facebook page and nominates Alter Eco 85% as her soy lecithin free choc of choice.
* Avoid palm oil and hydrogenated fats
These ingredients are used in some chocolates because they cost less than cocoa butter.
Palm oil is problematic for a number of environmental and humanitarian reasons including deforestation and Indigenous rights abuses. For a detailed explanation of the palm oil industry and its associated problems go here. As is the case with soy lecithin, palm oil is a very sneaky little ingredient included in many different food stuffs so do check those labels.
Hydrogenated fats are bad news because they have been heated and processed and are essentially damaged, digesting these is in no way good for you.
For some chocolate coated fun try Michelle's ice magic or Nicola's raw chocolate hearts and if you need more then I think Sarah Wilson's IQS chocolate cookbook is the one for you.
And for those of you whose chocolate obsession is out of hand I have a post brewing especially for you. More soon!
Do you love chocolate? What is your favorite brand or wholefood choc inspired recipe? Tell us in the comments.