When was the last time you ate a piece of dark chocolate. For me, it was last night. Eating a piece of dark chocolate has become my nightly routine. Thirty minutes after dinner, I jump into my favourite couch and read a magazine that I’m holding in one hand, while there’s a small piece of dark chocolate in the other. This has been my routine for nearly 5 years now.
In 2014, India’s chocolate industry was valued at Rs. 58 billion. In a span of five years, the industry is projected to reach Rs. 122 billion. Once considered to be a dark horse in this thriving industry, dark chocolate has soon become the fastest growing sub-segment. Why? Because we think its healthy. Dark chocolates are now in everything – from cookies to cakes and even beverages.
Let me put away all sorts of rumours and confirm this – Dark chocolates are indeed healthy. Let’s take a quick glance at the facts.
The British Journal of Nutrition found that owing to the presence of flavonols in dark chocolates, those who consume in moderation can see their blood pressure drop. Another study also found that dark chocolate reduces your risk of heart attack by 30 percent.
Flavonols, as I mentioned earlier, are naturally found in cacao beans – the vital component of dark chocolates. So, if the wrapper of a particular dark chocolate brand shows that it contains a higher percentage of cacao, then the chocolate bar contains more flavonols, which will be good for your health. Flavonols don’t just protect your heart, they also improve cognitive function and according to one study, protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
So, if dark chocolates really are healthy, why am I still writing this? Simple. Dark chocolates are good. Commercialised dark chocolates are very bad.
What is a commercialised dark chocolate?
These are dark chocolate bars manufactured by big brands, Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey’s, and in some part, even Lindt. Earlier, I had mentioned a few benefits of flavonols, which are found in raw cacao beans. To make dark chocolates, one must process these beans and it is this method which can likely affect the amount of flavonols that end up in the bar of dark chocolate you just bought. Most brands (especially Cadbury, Nestle and Hershey’s) process these beans with alkali, a method that is popularly known as Dutch-process.
A recent article on the Huffington Post explains that Dutch-process reduces the acidity and bitterness of natural cocoa. This alters the flavour and darkens the colour. However, dark chocolates made via this method have significantly lesser amounts of flavonol. Commercial dark chocolates are mainly aimed at leaving a pleasant taste in your mouth. Vast quantities of sugar and other artificial sweeteners and flavourings are added, making you forget the fact that cocoa is generally bitter.
Sugar must always be the last ingredient on a dark chocolate bar’s wrapper. However, the wrappers of Cadbury Bournville and Hershey’s Dark Chocolate list sugar as the first ingredient. While Lindt chocolate wrappers list cocoa as the main ingredient, some of their mainstream products such as their flavoured dark chocolates (hazelnut, orange, etc.) are said to contain Dutch-process cocoa to ensure consumers experience an even taste. A survey found that when told about the lower rates of flavonol in commercial dark chocolate brands, over 60 percent of consumers felt that dark chocolate as a whole was a healthy food product and opted to consume commercial brands over niche ones.
So, how to check if your dark chocolate is healthy?
First things first – read the ingredients. If sugar is ranked above all, put that chocolate down. Secondly, look for the percentage of cacao content. Any chocolate bar with 70% of cacao is good. Chocolates with over 85% are even better. Finally, research. Sometimes the best way to find the truth is to do a quick Google search of the product and reading about it’s nutritional information. We all want to eat the right kind of dark chocolate – one that will make us healthier.
But, with the growth in commercial chocolate brand – especially in India – it is harder to find one that’s not only healthy but also economically conscious. A bar of Lindt can cost anywhere from Rs.249 to even Rs. 670, whereas Bournville starts at Rs. 49. One thing you must always remember is that these commercial chocolates are deficient of flavonols.
If you are looking for a good bar of dark chocolate, I’ve listed some of the healthiest brands available in the Indian market. I hope that you will also choose quality over price.
All of their products generally have 70% or more cacao content. Remember to check the wrapper for more details. Zevic is made in India and its price range starts from Rs. 145.
A good majority of their products have over 60% cacao content. Starts at Rs. 249.
(iii) Jus Trufs
They boast on making chocolate that contains 99% cacao. Starts at Rs. 299
The cacao content in their products range from 40% to 72%, and most of them come in flavours. It’s advisable to check for cacao content before purchasing one. Starts at Rs.450.