Thursday, February 10, 2011

It’s Time to Bust the Myths About Chocolate

By Nita Bishop, ND

Photo by chaunceydavis818 via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
Myth: The darker the chocolate, the higher content of cacao and better for you.
Fact: Dark can be a misleading term. Chocolate in its untreated natural state is a yellowish-brown color, but “dutching” or alkalinizing, a common practice in the baking/food industry makes the chocolate a deeper, richer brown color. Acidity in chocolate is caused by the high polyphenol content and changing the pH by “dutching” imparts a milder flavor.

Myth: It is better to remove the cocoa butter from chocolate.
Fact: Most companies do not leave the cocoa butter in chocolate because they can sell it at a higher price on the secondary market. Some companies will leave a percentage of the cocoa butter in their chocolate for a creamier texture. Cocoa butter is a natural fat and has a combination of stearic acid which is cholesterol neutral, and mono-or polyunsaturated fat which can reduce cholesterol levels, so leaving a little cocoa butter in your chocolate can be a good thing.

KEY Myth: Most Chocolate has antioxidants.
Fact: An unfortunate problem in the chocolate industry is that most chocolate is processed above 110 degrees which greatly reduces the flavonol/antioxidant content. Very few chocolate companies care about this since the industry emphasis is placed on appearance and flavor. It is a rare experience to have a piece of RAW, ORGANIC, high antioxidant chocolate but it’s out there, you just have to search for it.

Myth: It is important to choose a Fair Trade chocolate.
Fact: Fair Trade means the farmer will be paid a fair wage for his cocoa beans. The downside to Fair Trade is that some farmers who produce inferior quality cacao beans are still paid the same as if they produced good quality beans. Choose a company that goes beyond Fair Trade and takes a personal interest in visiting and supporting the indigenous culture. Some companies give a bigger percentage back to the community and/or foster a nursery where farmers can work and stay on their land and not have to leave their families to work in the city for subsistence wages.

Myth: Chocolate made from Criollo variety tastes better.
Fact: Just like wines, cacao beans differ by region of origin, harvesting methods, etc. Criollo is touted as the richest, most expensive and is only 1% of the world production. Exceptionally rare criollo is harvested by dugout canoe deep in the Amazon rainforest. Criollo has less bitterness and astringency due to the lack of polyphenols. The strong and bitter tasting Forasterio variety, coming from W. Africa and S. America, comprises 80% of the worlds’ production. Trinitario comes from Ecuador and Columbia is a deeply flavorful bean with qualities of both varieties. The Arriba National variety unique only to Pacari/Ecuador was just rated #1 in the U.S. in the 70% Dark Chocolate Bar category.

Enjoy YOUR chocolate YOUR WAY, since only you can be the true judge.

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