Chocolate is divine stuff. Its primary ingredient is cacao which means food of the Gods. High quality chocolate tastes absolutely amazing and is a great source of nutrition in moderation. There’s a lot of different types of chocolate out there which have varying taste, quality and ingredients. If you want to experience the best that chocolate has to offer in terms of nutrition and taste, you’ll want to choose high quality chocolate.
Varieties Of Chocolate
There are lots of varieties of chocolate out there to choose from. You can buy supermarket brands, bars produced by master chocolatiers, chocolate with infusions, truffles containing alcohol and more. Recently, there has been an emergence of protein chocolate in the market. The three main varieties of chocolate are white, milk and dark chocolate where the percentage of cacao solids and the presence of milk solids determines what type of chocolate it is classified as.
Some chocolate is Fairtrade, others are rainforest alliance certified whilst some have no sort of certification. Generally, the higher the price of the chocolate, the better the quality up to around £4 – £5 in the UK although you can buy some high quality chocolate at around the £2 mark from Green and Black’s and Lindt. More expensive chocolate is generally higher quality is due to a range of possibilities:
- There are sustainable cacao farming practices in place.
- The chocolate is likely to be Fairtrade.
- It may be Rainforest Alliance Certified.
- It’s ‘real’ chocolate and uses cocoa butter (chocolate compounds use other fats).
- There is a higher percentage of cacao solids.
- The chocolate is organic.
- The brand is well renown for its chocolate expertise and high quality chocolate products.
How To Choose High Quality Chocolate
Look At The Ingredients
When choosing high quality chocolate, it’s important to look at the ingredients list. The ingredients which make up the majority of the contents as a percentage will be listed first on the ingredients list. High quality chocolate will contain cocoa mass or cocoa solids, cocoa butter, a sweetener such as sugar, lecithin (typically from sunflower or soy) and possibly a type of flavouring such as vanilla.
Chocolates which don’t contain cocoa mass as the ‘fat’ of the chocolate, but rather a fat substitute such as palm oil, coconut oil or vegetable oil can’t be classed as ‘real chocolate’. They are actually classed as chocolate compounds. Real chocolate uses cocoa mass which is more expensive. This is a key ingredient in high quality chocolate which is one reason for the higher price point.
Shoot For High % Cacao Solids
A higher percentage of cacao solids means there is more of that chocolatey goodness within the product. Cacao beans used to produce chocolate are rich in compounds called polyphenols which may exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity within the body. Chocolate with more cacao solids have more polyphenols which have been linked to improvements in blood pressure, improved glycemic control and improved inflammatory markers. This means that if you go for chocolate, you want to go for a greater amount of cacao solids as this is where many of the health benefits of chocolate come from and who wouldn’t want to consume chocolate that not only tastes good, but is healthy too! I suggest shooting for 85% cacao solids minimum. If that’s too bitter for your palate, consider trying to slowly transition towards chocolates with a higher percentage of cacao solids.
Buy Chocolate Which Hasn’t Been Dutch Processed
Dutch processing is a form of alkali processing which is sometimes used to create a chocolate with a darker hue. This generally gives the chocolate a smoother flavour. Chocolate processed in this way with a solution of potassium carbonate which neutralises the acidity of cacao mass used in chocolate to pH 7. I suggest choosing chocolate which has not been Dutch processed since this process causes further flavonoids and phytonutrients from chocolate to be lost. These compounds form the cocoa mass in chocolate which is what gives chocolate many of its health benefits.
If you look on the back of a variety of chocolates, some will state whether they have been Dutch processed or alkalised whilst others will not. For instance, the Lindt Excellence 85% bar is not Dutch processed whilst the Lindt Excellence 90% bar is Dutch processed.
By choosing chocolate brands that supply Fairtrade chocolate bars you’re supporting sustainable cocoa farming since certain Fairtrade criteria need to be met by the cocoa farmers for the chocolate to be Fairtrade certified. Here are a few:
- Sustainable irrigation practices
- Crop rotation
- Reduction of carbon emissions
- Prohibiting use of GMO crops
- Safe use of only legal pesticides
- Improving biodiversity
- Proper hazardous waste disposal
Furthermore, in addition to supporting sustainable cocoa farming, you’re helping to ensure farmers get a better wage for their cocoa farming so they can be more financially stable.
Go For Rainforest Alliance Certified
Similar to Fairtrade, cocoa which is rainforest alliance certified has sustainable farming practices in place and buying chocolate with this certification helps to contribute towards cocoa farmers livelihoods.
Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are audited annually against rigorous environmental, social, and economic criteria that protect biodiversity and foster a culture of respect for workers and local communities.
- Protect endangered species and forest areas of high conservation value
- Set aside a portion of land as forest reserve
- Provide workers with decent wages and protect their ability to organize
- Follow FSC guidelines that determine how, when, and where timber and non-timber forest products are harvested
- Respect the rights of local communities and indigenous people
Try A Variety
Sometimes if you want to know what high quality chocolate is perfect for you, you’ve simply got to try a variety of chocolate out there. There’s lots of different high quality brands out there such as Lindt, Green and Black’s, Godiva, Ghirardelli and Trader Joe’s. High quality chocolate will have a velvety chocolate taste with a subtle bitterness that lingers on the tongue. Have a taste around for yourself, try different brands and see which high quality chocolate is perfect for you.
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