Chocolate made with fewer calories and less waste

Marketing has not been kind to the Food of the Mayan Gods. Modern chocolate products are full of sugar and calories, contributing to the obesity epidemic in the West. And the cocoa crop is not in very good shape; climate change is decreasing production, causing prices to rise; Farmers in West Africa have responded by clearing rainforests to plant more cocoa plants. However, researchers at ETH Zurich may have found a way to begin to address both problems, making chocolate with less sugar and calories and making more efficient use of the cocoa crop. The Swiss perfected chocolate making over 200 years ago, so if they say chocolate is good, it is.

Chocolate is traditionally made by mixing dried, roasted and ground fermented cocoa beans to obtain cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is then mixed with refined sugar, usually from sugar beets. Instead of sugar, this new whole fruit Swiss chocolate uses the pulp surrounding the cocoa beans along with the inner bark of the cocoa pod shell to make a cocoa gel. When mixed with cocoa mass, it produces a chocolate with higher fiber content and lower saturated fat content than conventional chocolate.

The “whole fruit” on its label is certainly more appealing than air or fish oil which has previously been substituted for cocoa butter to reduce the saturated fat content of chocolate confections. (Additional cocoa butter, or fat isolated from the cocoa bean, is sometimes added to the cocoa mass to make the final product smoother and waxier.) Cocoa pulp and pods are usually thrown away, so recycling them instead of throwing them away could reduce land. harness the impact and global warming potential of cocoa cultivation.

Eleven middle-aged women had four opportunities to taste the chocolate and compare it with the standard formulation. Kim Mishra, lead author of the study, wrote in an email that “chocolate with whole fruits was rated as less sweet than conventional chocolate with the same absolute level of sugar. We estimate the sweetening power of the gel between 0.51 and 0.99 of powdered sugar. However, the gel also provides fruity notes and notes of dried fruits.”

As he also noted: “The color and shine were identical to conventional chocolate,” which is really important when evaluating and judging the finished product. But “sweetening gels were perceived as harsher on the tongue compared to sugar, as the particle size was larger.” This also explains why the chocolate made from the gel was relatively less sweet; Since the particles are larger, there are fewer of them and therefore less particle surface area for the sugar to dissolve. Additionally, the sugar in the gel is not crystalline like refined sugar, so it does not dissolve as quickly in saliva.

Still, Mishra wrote, “he is confident we can get there with more research.”

Natural Foods, 2024. DOI: 10.1038/s43016-024-00967-2

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