Today, we’re talking about making chocolate the easy, tasty, ‘healthy’ way.
Yes, I said ‘healthy.’ Let me clear that up. Chocolate is a treat and should be looked at as an occasional reward. That being said, a lot of store bought chocolate is loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Even if you don’t have access to high-end dark chocolate, you can still make your own healthier chocolate at home.
So is there such a thing as healthy chocolate?
Sort of. There’s a best practice at least. Today we’ll explore your options.
What is it about chocolate that makes people go a little crazy? This delicious and sometimes nutritious treat is a daily dessert for some people, for others just a healthy snack. The simple fact is, if you’re a person, chances are you like chocolate. It’s one taste that most of us enjoy.
Pretty much everyone loves chocolate. Period. There’s no doubt about it. So if it’s here to stay, let’s focus on eating the healthiest chocolate possible, and approaching this treat with balance.
Remember, even the healthiest raw chocolate still has sugar. Sugar is inflammatory and should be used very sparingly.
Now that’s out of the way. Here’s something you might not know about chocolate – there can be a lot of health benefits that go along with it. Making chocolate healthy comes down to what you buy, and of course, how much you eat.
Good news: the antioxidants found in raw cacao are extremely good for your body.
Bad news: you still can’t eat chocolate all day.
Again, we aren’t talking about the chocolate bar that has caramel and sea salt and peanut butter and cookies and frosting. Forget that.
Certain types of chocolate, especially those higher in raw cacao, can have some serious perks from antioxidants, to phytochemicals, to vitamins.
And we’re going to show you how to make chocolate. But let’s give you a quick lesson on making chocolate and the ups and downs of different chocolate products before we get started.
History of Making Chocolate
Chocolate comes from the seed of the cacao tree. But don’t go buying a cacao tree just yet. These beautiful trees can only be successfully grown in tropical areas like Africa, the Caribbean, Indonesia and Central America.
The beans that come from the tree are around the size of an almond. They are given anywhere from 3 days to a week to ferment and then are dried.
Next, they’re sorted, then cleaning and weighing take place before the cacao beans quickly roasted.
Then, this amazing machine cracks open the coats of the seeds and blows them away from everything else. The only thing left behind are cacao nibs. These are usually about half solid cocoa and the other half is made up of cocoa butter.
Now, that cocoa butter is where most of the fat comes from in the chocolate. The cocoa solid parts are ground up and made into cocoa powder.
So, if you use chocolate protein mix, that’s where it comes from – the cocoa powder.
Anyway, these nibs are then made into a type of paste, which is known as chocolate liquor (no alcohol, sorry).
After being pressed, various other kinds of ingredients are added, like sugar and vanilla.
Milk chocolate usually has ingredients like milk fat, vanilla, sugar, and cocoa butter. Candies such as Snickers and Twix add a lot more to the chocolate than you might think.
You might not taste the ingredients like egg whites, corn syrup, lactose, and artificial flavors.
Artificial flavors? Better believe it. So be careful what you buy. Making chocolate at home keeps it simple and clean.
Fast-forward to the grocery shelves and you’ll see tons of chocolate – unsweetened, bittersweet, semisweet, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate and cocoa powder.
Let’s look at a few of these kinds of chocolate.
Making Chocolate Healthier: What to Buy and What to Avoid
It turns out most of the ‘popular’ kinds of chocolate are not so sweet when it comes to your health. Making chocolate healthy requires you to buy the right kind of chocolate in store, or make your own. Making chocolate at home might be your best bet. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of popular chocolate forms.
Unsweetened Chocolate is made up of 100% cocoa liquor. It’s usually pretty bitter until it’s mixed with other good stuff. This isn’t really a kind of chocolate you want to eat – it’s mostly used for baking.
In order for a dark chocolate to be considered “dark chocolate,” it cannot have milk powder in it. Not only that, but it needs to have at least 35% of cocoa solids in it.
Semi sweet and Bittersweet Chocolate:
These are pretty similar, but differ by the amount of sugar contained in each.
How much chocolate liquor do you think needs to be in milk chocolate? 10%! And only 12% of milk solids. Not surprisingly, milk chocolate has a ton more sugar than semisweet and dark chocolates. Making chocolate healthy and eating milk chocolate are not a match.
What do you think about white chocolate? It’s chocolate right? Eh, kind of. It’s mostly made out of artificial flavors, sugar and some cocoa butter. Really you should think of white chocolate as candy more than a chocolate.
The solid that’s leftover after the cocoa butter is taken away from the chocolate liquor. This powder is generally not-so-sweet. There are two types of cocoa powder – Dutch and regular process. As a safe rule of thumb, stick with Dutch when you’re cooking with baking powder. But if you’re using baking soda, stay with the regular.
So, looking over the popular chocolate products, what do we take away from this?
There’s virtually no “real” cocoa in the average chocolate bar. What’s worse, a lot of what many of us have been eating is missing the good stuff.
So, if you’re wondering, how can chocolate be healthy?
Read on, because it turns out that the maximum health benefits obtained from chocolate come from staying as close to its natural form as possible.
Is Making Chocolate Healthy Really Possible?
The answer is yes. So, what are the health benefits of chocolate? Well, first there is no doubt that the benefits of chocolate come from the kinds closest to natural. This should come as no surprise.
Studies show that chocolate can have some awesome benefits on people’s mood. In fact, a some people grab for the chocolate during the winter months in order to ward off the winter blues.
In fact, there have been some connections between chocolate and increased cognitive performance.
Plus, chocolate provides the body with antioxidants through compounds called flavonoids.
Dark chocolate has close to the same amount of antioxidants as a Red Delicious apple or a plum.
That’s right – we just compared chocolate to fruit!
Chocolate also holds the power to reduce blood pressure – probably because of the flavonoids. Apparently flavonoids can help the production of inflammatory modulators, which help reduce inflammation.
Caffeine probably isn’t one of the first things you think of when it comes to chocolate. But it can be a better source than coffee.
What about too much chocolate?
Making chocolate healthy also means portion control. Aside from the obvious risks of consuming too much sugar, chocolate can cause some people to develop a kind of dependence. How? Because it actually affects the same part of the brain that become activated by drugs.
Chocolate doesn’t just taste good – it actually makes you feel good. So this jumpstarts a happy, positive feeling. And through this, your endorphins start rushing.
Like anything, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. So remember to keep your chocolate intake within reason.
So how about we try making our own? We’ve got a raw chocolate recipe for you to try – and you’re going to love it. Wondering, how do you make chocolate? We’ll show you.
Making Chocolate Healthy At Home
As you probably learned from our history lesson above, the kind of chocolate that we really get some benefits from isn’t the stuff we see at the gas station.
In fact, that goes under the category of candy, not chocolate. Right along with the Twix, the Reese’s, all of it. And that’s not what we’re going to be making.
We want some real chocolate.
Making chocolate healthy by cooking your own at home is the best way to remove any unwanted ingredients.
Now the real chocolate – the real stuff – is super rich, fresher and higher quality. Plus, it has lower levels of sugar and 85% or more cocoa.
Because you’re making it at home, you can also rest assured there are no preservatives or artificial flavors!
As you might expect, there’s a pretty big price difference between lower and higher quality chocolate that you buy on a shelf.
So we’re going to focus on a recipe that’s made from raw cocoa instead of roasted. And hopefully, we’re going to save you a few bucks in the process.
But don’t worry – you’re going to love the outcome. In fact, you might never go back to the cheap stuff again!
So here’s what you need in order to make your own raw chocolate at home.
First, grab half a cup of cocoa butter, organic (raw) cocoa powder, and virgin coconut oil.
Then, have a quarter to a half of agave syrup to add some sweetness. You can use Stevia if you want or any other type of sweetener you prefer.
Just try to keep it as healthy as possible – no refined bleached sugar.
Some of these items will be hard to find at your basic grocery store. Instead, check out your local natural food stores, whole foods etc. Or, if you strike out there, you can get all these ingredients online.
So that’s basically the foundation of making chocolate healthy. If you want to get fancy, add a few additions. You can us things like raisins or crushed nuts, goji berries, chili powder, or pretty much anything you want! But again, remember we’re making this at home to keep it semi-healthy. So don’t go adding chips or caramel to it. And if you do, it wasn’t our idea.
Ready to Make Your Own Homemade Raw Chocolate?
- First step is to take the cocoa butter and grate it as fine as you can. You want to get it pretty thin so that it melts with ease and won’t clump up or burn.
- Next, get your half a cup of coconut oil measured and ready to go.
- Then you want to put the coconut oil and cocoa butter in a small bowl that can be heated.
- Next, put that bowl within a shallow pan with a little bit of water. Don’t get the water boiling but get it pretty close. Every once in a while, make sure you give the butter and the oil a healthy stir.
- Now, take the half-cup of cocoa powder and add any of those extra ingredients in. Make sure you stir thoroughly. It might be a good idea to add a tablespoon of some kind of vanilla extract to give it extra flavor.
- Next, pour the dry ingredients into the bowl that contains the now-melted butter and oil. Here it’s important you keep stirring until it gets a silky smooth texture. The mix will seize or get very tough to stir if you don’t stir in constantly. Make sure to scrape the bottom as you stir.
- This next step is if you want to add some type sweetener to your chocolate. If you decide to go with the agave nectar, it’s a healthy but still sweet way to add some taste. You’ll want to stick to about four to six tablespoons and mix it in thoroughly.
- Next is one of the most important steps in the entire process. Taste testing.
Now if your chocolate is sweet enough, you want to find something to put it in. This could be something as simple as a plate or, if you want to make mini pieces of chocolate, find an empty ice cube tray.
It’s also a good idea to put some things on top of the chocolate. Not only does this taste good, but it can add a pretty artistic flair to the chocolate.
You have two options – put the chocolate in the freezer or put it in the fridge. If you decide on the freezer, you only need about half an hour. If you pick the fridge, you’ll need closer to an hour for the chocolate to set.
Finally, a taste of real chocolate!
Remember that chocolate, despite the health benefits, should be enjoyed in moderation. Lower sugar, higher cacao, dark chocolates are rich in antioxidants and provide the best option for a healthy store-bought chocolate.
If you’re making your own at home, start with the cleanest ingredients, don’t over-sweeten, and you’re well on your way to being a healthy chocolatier.
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