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Chocolate Choices

Unlike money, chocolate actually grows on trees. The seeds found in the pods of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) are processed in different ways to create a variety of foods:

Cacao nibs — Cacao nibs, which taste somewhat like coffee beans, are the broken pieces of cacao seeds left after the outer shells are cracked and removed. Available raw or roasted, nibs are the least-processed edible form of chocolate.

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 Cocoa —Cocoa is created by grinding the nibs into a mash called “chocolate liquor.” Cocoa butter and unsweetened cocoa powder are products of the liquor.

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Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) — Made nearly entirely of cocoa butter and cocoa solids, unsweetened baking chocolate is chocolate liquor in its solid form.

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Sweet chocolate — Most of the chocolate we eat falls into this category. It always contains cocoa solids (usually in the form of cocoa powder). High-quality chocolate uses cocoa butter as the fat, while low-quality chocolate uses substitute oils. Sweet chocolate contains varying amounts of sugar, but in general, the higher the quantity or percent of chocolate, the lower the sugar. The FDA states that in order for chocolate to be called dark (or even bittersweet or semisweet), it must contain at least 35 percent cacao and less than 12 percent milk solids. Milk chocolate usually has about 10 percent cacao but can have up to 40 percent, depending on the maker. Most nutrition experts agree that chocolate with 60 percent cacao or higher has the most health benefits.

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 White chocolate — Contains at least 20 percent cocoa butter, as well as sugar and milk, but no cocoa powder. Because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, white chocolate doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits as dark chocolate.

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Read more about “The Healing Powers of Dark Chocolate.”