I am trying something new starting this week and developing a Food Adventure Series. Here’s the deal: each week I will pick a food topic or item and explore the different aspects of this topic/item in different posts, including the nutritional content, a recipe or two, etc. But, I could use your help! Let me know if there’s a food item you would like me to explore, such as…broccoli, potato chips, bleu cheese – the sky is the limit. If you feel like picking the randomest food that would be fun too – just no creepy crawly things. Leave a comment, send me an email, Tweet me, Facebook me, carrier pigeon me, and let me know what food adventures we should take together. Sound good? Awesome! Thanks guys! 🙂
So today, since I already started the week with Vegan Chocolate Brownies, I am going to continue this week with a general exploration of chocolate, something we all love.
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is a tropical plant grown mostly in South America and Africa. It’s actually a native plant of South America and originally consumed by the Mayas and Aztecs. (Those guys ate well and super healthily – quinoa and cacao just grew naturally for them!)
As pictured below, cacao grows in pods and each pod contains many white beans which are then fermented, fried, graded, roasted, chopped, and ground into an oily paste called chocolate liquor. (You know what I’m talking about if you’ve been to Hershey, Pennsylvania and been on the Great American Chocolate Tour ride at Hershey Park.) Chocolate liquor contains particles of the ground nut mixed with cocoa butter which is made up of about 50% fatty acids. It is non-alcoholic and the basis for all chocolate.
There are three main types of chocolate we eat: white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. There’s also semisweet and unsweetened chocolate which are used mostly in baking but can also be snacked on, if you’re that “addicted.” 😉
- White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar and some kind of emulsifier, usually lecithin. It is probably the sweetest of all chocolates.
- Milk chocolate contains chocolate liquor, milk solids, extra cocoa butter and sugar.
- Dark chocolate contains chocolate liquor but does not contain milk solids and some contain less sugar making it more bitter in taste. You will notice the cacao content on the wrapper of the dark chocolate. It will usually say somewhere between 35% to 75% cacao, maybe more.
Dark chocolate is the healthier option if you love chocolate or develop an occasional craving because it has a significant amount of antioxidants which may help prevent cancer and other health problems. For the most part, it contains less sugar, though some manufacturers add sugar to make their chocolate more appealing – be sure to check the sugar content on the wrapper before eating. Excessive sugar is linked to many types of health problems including diabetes and obesity. I will admit, it can be an acquired taste but remember, you’re doing something better for your body. Not to mention, if you don’t like the taste of dark chocolate, it will force you to eat it in moderation. Try eating it with some fruit (fresh or dried) and nuts.
I’m going to wrap up this post here and save the nutritional content for the next post. Stay tuned! In the mean time, go eat some dark chocolate, in moderation, and think of some food adventures you’d like to take. 🙂 Love you all!