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Improved Deliciousness: Chocolate With The Full Potential Of Cocoa

2 months ago

3273  0
Posted on May 21, 2024, 5 p.m.

Here’s some good news for chocolate lovers, according to a study recently published in Nature Food, researchers from ETH Zurich have teamed up with the food industry chocolatiers to develop a type of whole fruit variety of dark chocolate that is more nutritious and sustainable than conventional varieties that harnesses the full potential of the cocoa fruit. 

The new formulation of cocoa-fruit chocolate uses cocoa-fruit jelly as a replacement for powdered sugar, reducing its sugar content and increasing its nutritional value. The new formulation has the potential to diversify the income source of smaller farmers by making use of underutilized additional valuable ingredients, increasing the profitability of cocoa cultivation while making chocolate a healthier decadent indulgence. 

Comparing cocoa fruit to honeydew melons the main author Kim Mishra explains "These fruits have similar structures. Both have a hard outer shell that reveals the flesh of the fruit when cut open, as well as the cocoa beans or melon seeds and pulp in the interior." 

Conventional chocolate only uses the beans, this study used the flesh and parts on the shell for the new formulation, which was turned into powder and mixed in with part of the pulp to form a cocoa gel. The resulting gel was extremely sweet and did not require the addition of powdered sugar that is normally added when making chocolate. It was not an easy task to find the right combination to create the perfect texture composition needed to make a sufficiently sweet product. Many attempts failed, with too much fruit juices extracted from the pulp making a clumpy mixture and an insufficiently sweet end product. 

Using a cocoa gel sweetener produces a product with higher fiber content than conventional dark chocolates, and it also contains less saturated fats than the average European dark chocolate. According to the researchers, at 15 grams of fiber in the new formulation versus 12 grams per 100 grams (nearly 20%), and only 23 grams of saturated fats versus 33 grams (close to 30%), the new chocolate has been deliciously improved. 

"Fibre is valuable from a physiological perspective because it naturally regulates intestinal activity and prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly when consuming chocolate. Saturated fat can also pose a health risk when too much is consumed. There's a relationship between increased consumption of saturated fats and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases," explains Mishra.

Farmers can diversify their product ranges using the new formulation, increasing income by using the other fruit components to be marketed for production instead of just the beans. Additionally, this new formulation produces less waste, if most of the fruit is used to produce chocolate only the shell will remain which is traditionally used as fuel or compost materials making the process more environmentally friendly as well. 

"This means that farmers can not only sell the beans, but also dry out the juice from the pulp and the endocarp, grind it into powder and sell that as well," explains Mishra. "This would allow them to generate income from three value-​creation streams. And more value creation for the cocoa fruit makes it more sustainable."

 "Although we've shown that our chocolate is attractive and has a comparable sensory experience to normal chocolate, the entire value creation chain will need to be adapted, starting with the cocoa farmers, who will require drying facilities," says Mishra. "Cocoa-​fruit chocolate can only be produced and sold on a large scale by chocolate producers once enough powder is produced by food processing companies."

The first steps have been taken to get this new chocolate to market with ETH filling for a patent for the new recipe. While the new formulation is more nutritious, eco-compatible, and has income diversification for farmers that will work in tandem to improve the entire chain of the cocoa plant, it looks like it could be a while before chocolate lovers are able to purchase this new chocolate and sample it for themselves. 

Dark chocolate is a favorite snack choice for many health-conscious people as in moderation it carries several benefits. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is a rich source of antioxidants and minerals and generally contains less sugar than other chocolates. A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate bar with a 70-85% cocoa content contains 11 grams of fiber, 66% of the daily recommended value for iron, 57% of the DRV for magnesium, 85% of the DRV for manganese, and 196% of the DRV for copper, along with ample amounts of zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. However, it also contains 600 calories and a moderate amount of sugar. 100 grams is also a fairly large amount and is not an amount that should be consumed daily. 

Studies have shown that dark chocolate can help to improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease. It is loaded with organic compounds that act as antioxidants, these include polyphenols, flavonols, and catechins among others which may help to lower some forms of cholesterol and stimulate the endothelium to produce nitric oxide which may help to reduce blood pressure. Both of these benefits may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The rich flavanol content may also help to improve brain function by improving blood flow to the brain. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate appears to improve attention, verbal learning, and memory, and may help to maintain cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. 

Bioactive compounds within dark chocolate may also be good for the skin, improving blood flow to the skin, and increasing skin density and hydration. 

Stick with dark chocolate that has a 70% or higher cocoa content and is made by a reputable manufacturer for the most benefits. While it does taste very delicious, it may be best to limit yourself to a square or two after dinner, keeping in mind that moderation is key. Too much of anything, even if it is good for you, can have the opposite effect. 

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