I am a huge fan of chocolate. How about the feeling of melting chocolate in the mouth? Heavenly right? A bite on a chocolate bar /spreading Nutella on bread /pouring chocolate syrup on vanilla ice cream – are moments of peace and pure joy. Forget about kids, I still feel excited if somebody gifts me a bar of chocolate. What about you?
But since we are trying to be little health conscious these days, chocolate is not only bringing excitements. It is also giving some amount of guilt with every bite. That’s horrible right?
Indian market is filled with chocolates – white, dark, milk, nutty and crunchy, coated, uncoated, cheap, expensive -are all these same from the health angle? Or, one is better than the other? We keep hearing dark chocolates are healthy. Is that true? Let’s take a deep dive to find all the answers and figure out which is the best chocolate in India?
Which is the best chocolate in India?
The variety and quality of chocolate depend on it’s processing techniques, ingredients, and composition. Ideally cocoa should be the main ingredient of any good quality chocolate.
Cocoa fruits look somewhat like small ripe papaya and it’s very sweet in taste. But it’s the seeds (or beans) which we generally refer as cocoa. These seeds are extremely bitter in taste and require multiple steps of processing -fermentation, drying, cleaning, roasting, shell removal and grinding- to get a raw cocoa mass.
Chocolate liquor –
The raw cocoa mass is basically unadulterated chocolate in rough form. This raw cocoa mass becomes liquid applying heat and called chocolate liquor.
Cocoa butter and cocoa powder –
Further processing of chocolate liquor separates the cocoa bean component from the fat component and finally forms cocoa solids and cocoa butter – the two prime ingredients of any chocolates.
Cocoa butter is 50%-57% of the weight, a pale yellow edible vegetable fat of cocoa beans and this gives chocolate the melting properties.
Cocoa solids are powdered and sold as cocoa powder in the market.
Baking chocolate or bitter chocolate –
It is often called unadulterated chocolate. It’s the combination of cocoa butter and cocoa solids in various proportion without any added sugar. It is dark, bitter and contains a minimum of 75% cacao. The pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor.
Milk chocolate –
Milk chocolate is sweet. It contains milk powder/milk solid/condensed milk, sugar, cocoa butter along with a certain percentage of cocoa powder/solids.
In UK milk chocolate must contain 20% of cocoa solids. In Europe cocoa, solid should be at least 25%.
Unfortunately, when I checked all the popular commercial brands in India, cocoa solid is only 5-7%, whereas the first ingredient in the list is sugar. The small size of milk chocolate in India provides at least 6-8 teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of cocoa powder, vegetable fat (palm oil), cocoa butter, artificial flavors, and additives like emulsifier and stabilizers.
After checking the ingredient list I was wondering whether to categorize milk chocolate as chocolate or as flavored sugar bar. What do you think?
Dark chocolate –
Dark chocolate ideally should be chocolate liquor with some percentage of added sugar. Thus it’s also called “sweet chocolate”. The main ingredients in dark chocolate are – cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, and flavoring agent. A higher the number of cocoa solids indicate more bitterness. There are dark chocolates termed as “semisweet chocolate” contain less sugar.
In India, most of the popular brands manufacturing dark chocolate keep the amount of cocoa between 30-40%. Yes, as the name suggests it is dark with the higher cocoa amount and better than the milk chocolate. But the issue is again sugar. The small size of dark chocolate provides at least 5-6 tsp of sugar along with the long list of vegetable oil, additives, and preservatives.
There is imported chocolate available in the Indian market, which contain higher cocoa and less amount of sugar. They are undoubtedly a far better choice than any popular commercial milk or dark chocolate. However, they are high in price thus may not be affordable for everyone.
White chocolate –
White chocolates contain cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solid/milk powder/ condensed milk but no cocoa solids. It is white, sweet and has the same texture as milk or dark chocolate. Since white sugar does not contain cocoa solids, in many countries white chocolate is not considered as chocolate. Just like the milk chocolate, sugar is the first ingredient for popular white chocolate available in the Indian market. A bar of small chocolate provides again 6-8 tsp of sugar in India.
Major ingredients difference in different types of chocolates-
• Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and (sometimes) vanilla
• Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa solids, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
• White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
Other than chocolate bars, chocolate syrup chocolate spreads are being popular in India in recent years. Let’s check their ingredient list to find out what exactly those products are offering to us.
Chocolate syrup –
There are 2-3 popular brands of chocolate syrup extremely popular in India. If you have a kid, you probably prefer to keep such items in our kitchen. You will be surprised to know that in any popular brand of chocolate syrup contain a negligible amount of cocoa and loaded with sugar in various forms – liquid glucose, sugar, invert sugar, etc. along with a long list of additives and preservatives. 100 gm of chocolate syrup provides you at least 13-15 teaspoons of sugar.
Chocolate spread –
Yes, I mean Nutella and all other popular chocolate spread in the Indian market. You will be surprised to know the “hazelnut and cocoa spread” contain only 13% of hazelnut and 7% of cocoa in it. Rest? More than 50% is nothing but sugar with various names and forms. Remaining 30% is filled up by skimmed milk powder, palm oil and a long list of various additives and preservatives.
Feeling cheated? Do you know in the United States, Ferrero (the company sells Nutella)was sued for false advertising their product as “part of a nutritious breakfast” whereas the product is mostly sugar and palm oil? Ferrero had to pay $3 million as a settlement along with making changes to Nutella’s labeling and advertisement.
So, which is the best chocolate in India?
First of all as per the thumb rule of nutrition, no matter how great is it always eat chocolate in moderation. Yes, being a super fan of chocolate, I can understand how difficult is this. But trust me it’s not impossible.
Chocolate is good only if you pay little more attention while buying.
Few buying tips you must consider are –
• Always check the ingredient list at the back
• Cocoa should be the first ingredient in the list, not somewhere in between
• Always choose chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa content provides more antioxidants and other health benefits
• Note higher the cocoa percentage means the lower sugar content
• Sugar should be the last in the ingredient list
• Your chocolate should not contain any unnecessary ingredients – trans fat, milk, artificial flavors, high amount of sugar, etc
• Avoid chocolate which is processed through “dutching” – an alkali treatment method which reduces the antioxidant content of the chocolate
• Buy fair trade and organic versions if possible. They are high in quality, free from any pesticides and ethically sourced.
Ethically sourced chocolate …what does that mean?
Most of our kids get excited about getting a bar of chocolate. Right?
Cocoa production has always been under controversy for violating basic human rights.
Africa is the biggest supplier of cocoa (70% approx) in the world. But do you know thousands to lakhs of child labors are engaged in cocoa farming in Africa? Many of them are the victim of trafficking or slavery. A high percentage of pesticides and chemicals are used in cocoa production, constant exposure to such harmful chemicals onset various health hazards in cocoa farmers. Fair trade version ensure the product is organic, pesticides free and ethically sourced without any violation of human rights.
Is chocolate good for health?
First of all, by saying chocolate, we mean pure dark chocolate with the least percentage of sugar and high cocoa content. So do not consider any sugar crap (most of the commercial chocolate) in the name of chocolate will give you any health benefits.
Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. All the health benefits of dark chocolate come from cocoa. It is rich in fiber and minerals like – iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc, etc. Besides this, dark chocolate –
• is rich in organic compounds such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins which act as a potent antioxidants
• is beneficial for lowering blood pressure
• can decrease oxidized LDL and increase HDL level
• may reduce the risk of heart disease
• can reduce insulin resistance
• can improve cognitive function in elderly people
How about giving chocolate to kids?
Most of us think sugar is bad for us but good for kids. No, it is NOT. Sugar is equally harmful if not more for kids. Unfortunately, the Indian market is filled with chocolates which are actually only sugar. Stop giving those to your kids.
Sustainable healthy behavior is not only for you but also for your kids. And these habits to be developed from the very beginning, not at the age of 25 after ruining your system with excessive processed sugar and chemicals. Be mindful before offering any such crap to your kid. If you indulge in that stuff, then you have no right to complain on “sugar rush” or on “ my kid does not eat fruits and vegetables”. You need to help your kid to appreciate the subtle taste (fruits/nuts/seeds/vegetable/pulse etc.) which is not possible if you continue to supply processed junk. As I have mentioned earlier giving good chocolate in moderation is fine but definitely not the sugary crap.
We love chocolate. Chocolate is synonymous to joy and happiness. But which chocolate is best in India? Not the popular commercial ones for sure. Be careful, read the label as suggested above. Check the cocoa and sugar percentage on the packet. You must not fool yourself by buying a sugar bar in the name of chocolate. Be extra careful while buying chocolate for kids. Show your love for kids in the right way not by creating an artificial short term excitement in the form of a sugar rush.
Word of caution- Don’t eat chocolate with an excuse of its possible health benefits. Because you have many other natural food sources to ensure those amazing benefits. Enjoy good quality chocolate in moderation just like that.
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