Chocolate 101: A Clean-Eaters Guide
Clean-eating chocolate, does it exist? Should we be eating chocolate on a clean-eating diet? If so, what should we eat? This article will look at the types of chocolate available so that you can make an informed choice.
Types of chocolate
Chocolate is derived from the cacao (or cocoa) bean. Cocoa refers to raw cacao that has been roasted at very high temperatures, and has therefore been processed. This processed cocoa is used to create chocolate, the classification of which depends on the cocoa content of the end product and the degree to which it has been processed.
Milk chocolate is made using milk, sugar and cocoa giving a sweet taste and a smooth texture. Milk chocolate in the UK has to contain at least 20% cocoa, while outside of the UK it must contain at least 25%. Most milk chocolate in the UK is not ‘clean-eating chocolate’. It is heavily processed and contains a lot of refined white sugar and chemical preservatives. When buying milk chocolate, look for the highest concentration of cocoa, and the lowest amount of chemical additives and refined sugar.
Dark chocolate contains little or no milk. It is usually made with cocoa, sugar and fat, such as cocoa butter. Many clean-eaters opt for dark chocolate with a high proportion of cocoa solids (70% plus) and as little sugar as possible. Dark chocolate can be an acquired taste, the higher the cocoa percentage, the more bitter the taste, especially when the sugar content of the bar is low. When looking for dark chocolate, ideally you want cocoa to be the first ingredient listed. An example of a good dark chocolate choice might be Lindt Excellence 70% Chocolate, the ingredients of which are: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, natural Bourbon vanilla beans.
Most dark chocolate still contains refined white sugar, however it is possible to buy dark chocolate made with unrefined sugar. A great example of this is the chocolate that we use in The Green Apple Club kitchen: Organic 67% Coconut Sugar Chocolate Drops, from Real Food Source which is made using 67% cocoa solids and 33% coconut sugar.
White chocolate contains sugar, milk and cocoa butter (the fatty part of the cocoa bean), but no actual cocoa solids. For this reason it is often argued that white chocolate is not actually chocolate, but a sweet confection. There is no ‘clean-eating chocolate’ option for white chocolate. If you like this type of chocolate, eat it having made an informed decision regarding its ingredients.
Raw chocolate has become much more readily available over the last few years. Raw chocolate is cacao that has not been heated or processed in any way – it is therefore the only real clean-eating chocolate. Cacao is thought to have many health benefits that include protecting your nervous system, lowering blood pressure and guarding against heart disease. Raw chocolate can be an acquired taste so if you fancy trying it, and potentially receiving the health benefits associated with it, The Raw Chocolate Company might be a good place to start.
Everything in moderation
You can enjoy chocolate on a clean-eating lifestyle if you want to, although it is wise to remember the ‘everything in moderation’ mantra. If you choose to eat chocolate other than raw cacao then be sure to make an informed choice about what you are eating, and remember to always look at your labels so that you know exactly what you are eating.
Chocolate recipes to try: