Where does chocolate come from?
Chocolate originates in Mesoamerica (South America area) where it was consumed as a drink among the Aztecs. In the absence of sugar, corn and spices were added to flavour the “xocoatl” drink. Chocolate was not developed into a bar in England until the 1800s. Since then we have been adding sugar, cacao butter and all sorts of flavours to our chocolate. What was “xocoatl” and what we know as chocolate, are two very different foods.
What on earth is the difference between cacao, cocoa and chocolate?
Cacao pods grow on Theobroma Cacao trees and produce cacao beans. These raw beans can be fermented, dried and shelled to produce cacao nibs and pressed to make cacao butter.
Cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and cocoa powder are produced from ROASTED cacao beans. After the cacao beans are fermented and dried they are roasted at 130 degrees Celsius. Some of the antioxidants and nutrients are lost in exposing the beans to heat.
Cacao nibs or cocoa nibs are conched (grounded and stirred), until they produce a liquid. Chocolate makers add sugars, milk powder, cacao butter and other flavours to this liquid. The mixture is solidified to make chocolate.
So what’s raw chocolate?
Raw chocolate is made from raw, unroasted, cacao beans. There is no legal definition for “raw”. Hence “raw chocolate” makers use raw cacao beans and then temper their chocolate. Tempering involves heating the chocolate to 34 degrees Celsius in order to improve texture. So if the chocolate is tempered, it’s not actually raw. Nutrients from the raw cacao can be lost at the tempering stage so double check with the supplier that there has been no heat exposure.
Is chocolate good for you?
It is is one of the highest whole food sources of magnesium which happens to be one of the most deficient minerals in the modern diet. Moreover, it is also a great resource of iron for all my fellow anaemics out there (more than spinach!).
Even better, antioxidants actually make up 10% of the weight of raw cacao! Antioxidants repair damage caused by free radicals and supposedly reduce the risk of some cancers. Raw chocolate has even more antioxidants than acai, goji and blueberries!
Sounds great right? Pass me the family size Galaxy!
Unfortunately processed chocolate exposed to high temperatures and chocolate with added sugar, milk powders, stabilisers do not contain the same amount of nutrients. So if you’re looking for healthy chocolate, look out for:
– raw chocolate (check that it is not exposed to heat even at tempering stages)
– no added refined sugar
– a small percentage of milk powder i.e 70% cacao
– no added scary ingredients like E470b !!! Like what even is that..
Or grab yourselves some cacao nibs (not cocoa nibs)
How can I make my own healthy chocolate?
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