Some treats are more beloved than others, though it is usually a matter of preference rather than objective ranking. Some people find fruit the ideal treat, while others prefer candy or pastries. Different people have different tastes, and there is always a concern about how certain treats can impact your health over time. Consistently consuming sweets or junk food can have extreme ramifications on your body.
Unfortunately, resisting the urge to snack on your favorite treat can be challenging since food addiction is a real issue. Junk food is one of the main catalysts for that addiction and requires a carefully curated diet to avoid it. Even people with high self-control can fall into the allure of their preferred snacks.
One of the main foods that can be difficult to resist is chocolate, which holds a unique position as one of the most beloved sweets worldwide. Unfortunately, chocolate is not particularly good for us since most chocolate products are overloaded with added sugar to enhance the sweetness. This makes binging on KitKats a poor decision that can come back to haunt us in later life.
Insofar as chocolate is concerned, we can enjoy it without introducing too much sugar into our diet. Chocolate is shockingly versatile and has different forms depending on its production, including a low-sugar or sugar-free chocolate method. The saturation of chocolate on the market makes it difficult to identify a sugar-free chocolate that tastes good, but it is possible.
Check the Cocoa Content
Over 5,000 years ago, South Americans domesticated and cultivated a tree in the Amazon rainforest. This tree, Theobroma cacao, became one of the most important trees in culinary history since the seeds are used to create chocolate. A fully fermented cocoa seed produces compounds that can be refined and repurposed to create chocolate. In fact, cocoa solids and cocoa butter are the key ingredients in chocolate, with the latter incapable of existing without them.
You might be hesitant to believe cocoa beans' role in chocolate, considering their distinct appearance. Most believe the insides of the seeds resemble a bloated maggot and are less inclined to consider eating it. Furthermore, the raw seeds are extremely bitter and do not taste anything like what we have come to expect when we bite into a chocolate bar. Despite this, cocoa beans are essential to producing true chocolate and are critical to chocolate's limited benefits.
The biggest drawback to chocolate with a high cocoa concentration is that cocoa's bitterness affects the chocolate's flavor profile. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the stronger the seed's flavor will be in the final product. That said, the higher the cocoa content, the purer the chocolate. Cocoa content determines what classification a chocolate bar (or other forms of confection) falls under.
Pure chocolate is considered the healthiest option because it tends to have fewer added ingredients, contributing to its downsides. The purer chocolates are a little harder on the palate because of the inherited flavor and low natural sugars. The advantage is that higher concentrations of cocoa in chocolate means there is less room for artificial sweeteners or added sugar.
Furthermore, higher cocoa concentrations are typically associated with specific types of chocolate designed for a slightly more bitter flavor. If you want to know about the cocoa concentration in your chocolate bar, the ingredients and cocoa percentage are typically listed on the label. Unfortunately, there is more to consider if you want a bar of sugar-free chocolate.
Know the Types
Chocolate is not a one-size-fits-all kind of treat and comes in multiple forms with different characteristics and flavors. The 3 main types of chocolate are easily recognizable and are specifically related to how much cocoa is used to make them. The purest form of chocolate is dark chocolate, which has the highest concentration of cocoa in a single bar.
Dark chocolate is known for being bittersweet and one of the few chocolates with an acquired taste. This is because dark chocolate is made using 50-90% cocoa solids and cocoa butter, making cocoa the predominant ingredient. Sugar is still used to adulterate the bitterness and prevent the cocoa flavor from overpowering the senses, but dark chocolate only has an average of 7 grams.
However, the flavor is more bitter than a movie theater or convenience store chocolate bar. While many popular chocolate brands have begun offering dark chocolate alternatives (Reese's cups, KitKats, etc.), most mainstream chocolate bars focus on a sweeter type of chocolate.
Milk chocolate is the most popular type because it is sweet but not overbearingly. Milk chocolate is also more malleable and can be mixed with other sweets to compound the flavor rather than adding bitterness. The key difference is that milk chocolate only contains between 10-50% cocoa and is adulterated with milk and added sugar. Milk chocolate has an average of 87 grams of sugar per serving, making sugar a major ingredient.
The low cocoa concentration leaves more room for these added ingredients, which causes the nutritional value of the cocoa to plummet. Most healthy substances lose their value when combined with sweeteners or supplementary ingredients that tax the nutrients. Unfortunately, milk chocolate is not the worst offender since there is another type of "chocolate" that is extremely popular.
White chocolate is one of the most popular types on the market, but its popularity is built on one of the biggest misconceptions in the culinary industry. White chocolate is not really chocolate since it has no cocoa solids whatsoever, whereas the minimum amount of cocoa solids for chocolate to earn its name is 25% for milk chocolate and 35% for dark chocolate. White chocolate is only allowed to be marketed as chocolate because it has cocoa butter, the weakest component of the cocoa seed.
As a result, the cocoa's nutritional value is essentially non-existent in white chocolate, and the final product has larger concentrations of milk and sugar. White chocolate averages around 100 grams of sugar per serving, making it the biggest offender insofar as sugar content. The odds of finding sugar-free or low-sugar white chocolate are fairly low since sweetness is the main selling point.
The good news is that we can easily identify the different types of chocolate through their packaging. The bad news is that many overlook dark chocolate in favor of one of the sweeter offerings. Dark chocolate has grown more popular, but its naturally low sugar content makes it the gold standard for those looking to regulate their sugar intake. Unfortunately, regular sugar is not the only sweetener used in modern chocolate.
Look Out For Sweeteners
Sugar is the original sweetener because it is one of the few that grows naturally and is flexible enough to be combined with almost anything. While sugar remains a popular selection for sweetening foods, drinks, and other products, modern science has yielded alternatives. Artificial sweeteners are becoming more common because they are less expensive to produce and do not require as much care as raw sugar plants.
Artificial sweeteners are often used in snacks, and most are packaged and sold so we can add them to our drinks and recipes. Even if something is marketed as low sugar, you need to ensure it is not because they replaced traditional sugar with an artificial alternative (especially since most of them are more harmful due to their synthetic nature). Several artificial sweeteners are used in chocolates (among other things), and they can all be more detrimental to our health.
Some of the main sweeteners to avoid are:
- Aspartame: Aspartame is commonly used in diet sodas and, more importantly, chocolates. The sweetener was widespread and remains in many products but recently faced backlash when it was connected to cancer by the World Health Organization. This led a few brands to remove aspartame as their sweetener of choice, primarily PepsiCo. Unfortunately, it is still available in many candies and chocolates, and you might consume it without realizing it is in your food.
- Stevia: Stevia is a slightly more recognizable sweetener since it is commonly supplied in restaurants and diners for use in coffee and tea. Stevia has more uses and is one of the few sweeteners derived from a plant. Despite its semi-natural origins, Stevia carries significant risks to our health because it is far sweeter than sugar. The leaves of the plant from which Stevia is cultivated are 15 to 30 times sweeter than sugar, making it one of the most effective alternatives. Unfortunately, this means the amount used in chocolates must be limited since Stevia could make the chocolate far unhealthier than sugar.
- Xylitol: Xylitol is a sweetener commonly used to produce gum and harvested from a plant. Xylitol is usually considered one of the safer options for people who want a less intensive sweetener. That said, certain health issues are still associated with it that are unpleasant but usually harmless. The biggest issues are diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome if consumed excessively. Therefore, you should check any chocolate you plan on eating for high concentrations of xylitol to avoid these potential side effects. Ultimately, xylitol is the safest artificial sweetener for chocolates.
- Sorbitol: The last of the major sweeteners, sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. Despite the name, sorbitol is not a real alcohol and has no intoxicating effects that traditional alcohols have. This means sorbitol (and all sugar alcohols) can be safely consumed by children or individuals with alcohol allergies. Unfortunately, sorbitol does have drawbacks if consumed excessively since the compound is still a sweetener. Sorbitol can cause gastrointestinal distress (i.e., bloating, gas, abdominal cramps), and overconsumption might cause long-term benefits we do not understand yet. While sorbitol can be a better alternative to sugar, you should ensure your chocolate does not have too much.
Other artificial sweeteners are worthy of consideration, but sugar has one last impact on chocolates. This next one is primarily relevant to those who monitor their daily caloric intake.
Sugar Increases Chocolate's Caloric Value
Calories are an important aspect of how our bodies absorb nutrients from the foods we eat, and we need to maintain a regular daily intake to stay alive and energized. The misconception about calories is that they are not equal, and some are "bad calories." The harmful calories are primarily found in sweets, carbohydrates, and other processed foods. Most of the calories associated with these foods provide short bursts of energy but do not last long, and we are often hungry again soon after.
Insofar as chocolate is concerned, the caloric value is more effective when the sugar concentrations are low. Therefore, dark chocolate provides more nutritional value, whereas white chocolate is practically worthless due to its high sugar concentration.
Typically, the different chocolates have the following caloric values:
- Dark Chocolate: A serving of 100 grams of dark chocolate has an average of 505 calories.
- Milk Chocolate: A serving of 100 grams of milk chocolate has an average of 535 calories.
- White Chocolate: A serving of 100 grams of white chocolate has an average of 539 calories.
While the caloric values are fairly close, the sugar concentrations in each type determine whether the 500-calorie average benefits your daily intake. Since dark chocolate has the least sugar, the 505 calories will last longer and be more beneficial to your intake. Conversely, white chocolate's higher sugar concentration lowers the value of each calorie and causes the associated energy and nutrition to deplete faster.
Keep it All Natural!
Chocolate is one of the most popular treats in society and has been a part of our diet for centuries. The different varieties of chocolate are relatively modern inventions, but all of them have maintained popularity in our society. Unfortunately, finding a light chocolate that tastes good and prevents added pounds can be difficult. Fortunately, we at Bella All Natural have a solution to let you enjoy the taste of chocolate while maintaining your ideal weight.
We offer several natural products, but one of our latest additions is our Skinny Chocolates, which provides tasty chocolate treats with none of the more harmful sweeteners found in the more common offerings. We encourage you to visit our website and try our chocolates directly, but regardless of your choice, remember to keep it All Natural!