Chocolate is one of those foods you just can’t help but love!
– 7.2 million tons of chocolate are eaten every year
– Chocolate generates $20.1 billion in revenue every year in the U.S. alone
– Switzerland eats more chocolate than any other country in the world–roughly 22 pounds of chocolate per person
Men, women, and children around the world buy chocolate on a regular basis, and it’s one of the world’s most popular snacks and sweets. Thankfully, it’s also one of the healthiest! Dark chocolate offers a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Gives you 98% DV of manganese and 89% DV for copper
- Has a high ORAC score, meaning it’s loaded with antioxidants
- Can improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure
- Lowers bad cholesterol levels
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Is believed to improve brain function
All of this and a great taste! Can it get any better?
Thanks to a team of scientists, chocolate just got healthier and a whole lot more delicious!
The Science of Making Chocolate Better
Cacao beans go through a pretty complex process from harvesting to consumption. First, the beans are harvested and immediately split open. This allows the harvesters to remove the purple and white beans. They are then set to ferment, then roasted for 20 minutes at a temperature of roughly 250 F. This roasting process brings out the wonderful, chocolaty flavor that you love. Sadly, that roasting process also causes a lot of the antioxidants in the chocolate to be destroyed.
No longer! Thanks to a team of researchers at Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Ghana, a new process has been discovered that keeps the antioxidant content in chocolate unaffected. The new process ALSO makes the chocolate taste better.
Roast At Lower Temperature And For a Longer Period of Time
The team of researchers harvested 300 cacao beans to use for their experiment(1). But instead of splitting them open and fermenting them immediately, they divided the pods into four groups. One group was split and fermented immediately, another group was opened and fermented after 3 days, a third group was only split open for fermentation after a week, and the final group was split and fermented after 10 days.
Also, instead of roasting the cacao beans at 248 F (the normal temperature) for 20 minutes, the researchers tried roasting them at 242 F for 45 minutes. A bit longer time spent in the roaster, but at a lower temperature.
When they tasted the chocolate, the result was noticeable. The roasted cacao beans had a much richer taste thanks to the lower temperature and longer cook time.
Here’s Why It Works
But the real difference was in the antioxidant content! The cacao beans that had been left sitting for 7 days prior to being opened and fermented showed the highest level of antioxidants of all the groups. Leaving the beans to sit had a positive effect on the antioxidant content of the beans, and the lower roasting temperature did not damage or destroy the antioxidants during roasting.
The reason that the 7-day storage works, according to the lead researcher, is due to the sweet pulp in the pod. The pulp surrounds the bean for protection, but as it sits, it releases liquids that are absorbed into the bean. The liquid alters the physical and chemical composition of the bean, enhancing the antioxidant content and aiding in the fermentation process. The result is cacao beans that have more antioxidants and a much richer taste.