You probably know that chocolate is good for your health, especially dark chocolate. Fortunately, numerous studies are showing that eating dark chocolate regularly lowers your risk of getting heart diseases, attributed to the wide range of flavonoid antioxidants that fight inflammation, improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure and even protecting the LDL cholesterol from being oxidised (which is more atherogenic than the original form).1,2,3
The health-bearing benefits of eating chocolates are attributed to cacao.The darker you go for, the more antioxidants you’ll reap from dark chocolate as well as its health benefits. However, the quality of chocolate plays an important role, whether you’re eating antioxidant-rich real chocolate or fakes ones with no cacao but only artificial colours, flavours and loads of sugar.
What are the differences between real and fake chocolates?
High-quality real chocolates, also known as couverture chocolates, always use some form of cocoa such as cocoa powder and cocoa butter as the main ingredients. Cocoa butter is a fat naturally found in cocoa beans and stays solid at room temperature. Compared to other ingredients, couverture chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa butter and is ground to a finer texture during production, yielding superior flavour and texture. Tempering is also needed to prevent blooming and to give the finished product a good shine and snap.
On the other hand, compound chocolate uses cocoa powder with a combination of sweetener but replaces cocoa butter with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. These hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, are sometimes known as cocoa butter substitutes or replacers and are chosen to replace real cocoa butter in cheaper chocolate due to its longer shelf life and lower cost. However, it also produced undesirable trans-fat which has been clinically observed to worsen heart health by increasing the bad cholesterol (LDL) whilst lowering the good ones (HDL). At the same time, you also lose the luscious taste of real dark chocolate.
Consumer Tips: How to tell if my chocolate is real?
In short, you must know your chocolate! Always read the labelling and make sure you’re looking the purest ingredients – cocoa powder and cocoa butter in your real dark chocolate!
This article is written by Ms Wu Suet Kei (Nutritionist) for Green Image Organic Enterprise Sdn. Bhd.
- Chocolate consumption is inversely associated with prevalent coronary heart disease: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study. Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;30(2):182-7.
- Can chocolate consumption reduce cardio-cerebrovascular risk? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition 2018 Feb;46:103-114
- Does cocoa/dark chocolate supplementation have favorable effect on body weight, body mass index and waist circumference? A systematic review, meta-analysis and dose-response of randomized clinical trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2019;59(15):2349-2362.