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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
Cocoa Powder

Indulgent Chocolate


As a follow-up to this year's February post on cocoa powder, let's talk chocolate. Does it feel indulgent? Does your mouth water thinking about biting into a rich piece of chocolate?

From the cacao tree, cocoa beans are removed from their pods, dried, roasted to a desired point, cracked into "nibs," and ground into a paste called cocoa liquor. The liquor can be pressed to separate out cocoa butter (primarily fat).

In a process called conching, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, sugar, and additional ingredients such as emulsifiers (soy lecithin) or milk powder (for milk chocolate) are blended with physical mixing and heat. Continued mixing creates a smooth mixture that becomes chocolate.

Nutritionally, chocolate is a high-calorie, high-fat food. (Notice how this is different from cocoa powder, which was very little fat.) The addition of other ingredients, such as milk powder and sugar, will increase calories, fat, and carbohydrates. See Table 1 for nutritional information on different types of chocolate.

Darker chocolate varieties contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin K. Milk and white chocolate contain less. Chocolate contains flavonoids, a class of antioxidants, which some research shows may benefit heart health by making blood vessels more flexible and helping lower blood pressure.

Table 1. Nutritional value of select chocolate varieties

Chocolate variety (1 oz)

Calories

Carbohydrates (g)

Fat (g)

Unsweetened baking chocolate (squares)

186

8

15

60-69% cocoa

164

15

11

Milk

152

17

8

Semi-sweet

136

18

9

White

151

17

9


Source: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27
  • Buy: Look for chocolate bars and chips made with a higher percent of cocoa. Many bars contain 60-90% cocoa, with higher numbers having more cocoa and less added ingredients, such as sugar. The amount of flavonoids in chocolate may vary by brand, even among "dark" chocolates.

While chocolate chips are commonly milk or semi-sweet chocolate, those made with higher percent of cocoa are now available and often called "dark" chocolate.

  • Price: High percent cocoa chocolates will have a higher price than those with a lower amount. Compare between brands and find a chocolate you like in terms of taste and that fits in your budget.
  • Store: Keep chocolate in a dry place at room temperature, and out of temperature extremes, particularly heat. Heated and cooled chocolate forms a white coating, called bloom. It is still safe to eat chocolate with bloom, but it will not look as nice. Chocolate can be frozen, and should be thawed in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare: Most chocolate simply needs to be opened from the package and eaten. Depending on the recipe chocolate can be grated, such as with a cheese grater, or chopped into smaller pieces with a knife or food processor.
  • Eat: For best quality, eat chocolate or use in recipes by the date on the package. While chocolate is common in sweet recipes, try chocolate in savory or spicy recipes like chili for added flavor.

References:

Two-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse (serves 8)

Be aware of the serving size of this recipe. For as rich as this mousse is, a small portion is plenty to satisfy your chocolate craving. Make sure to choose lower fat and calorie foods during the rest of the day.

1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream (or heavy whipping cream)

1. In a small microwavable bowl, add 1 cup of chocolate chips and 3/8 cup whipping cream. Microwave for 1 minute on HIGH; stir. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring with each interval, until smooth. Cool at room temperature, about 30 minutes or until mixture is no longer hot.
2. In a large clean bowl, add remaining 5/8 cup of whipping cream. Beat with an electric hand mixer on high until reaching stiff peaks.*
3. Add a third of whipped cream to melted chocolate and stir to combine.
4. Add the chocolate mixture back into the remaining whipped cream. Fold** until combined. Divide into 8 serving cups, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
*To determine if you reached stiff peaks, lift beaters straight up out of bowl and flip over. Stiff peaks will stay tall and not fold over.

**To fold mousse, watch this video to see the technique: How to Fold Ingredients from Epicurious

Nutritional analysis per serving: 240 calories, 20g fat, 20mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g protein



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