Chocolate is love, and one can never have enough of it, especially if it’s healthy and diet-friendly!
Chocolates play a huge role during these festive months. From Thanksgiving to Hannukah, Christmas, and New Year's, the world is on a chocolate high. Make sure you're choosing consciously when you buy them for yourself, family, or friends.
All good things come from plants. So does chocolate! The beans from the cacao tree are roasted, ground, and processed before it reaches us. It's this extra processing of the cocoa beans where additives such as sugar, milk, or milk fat are added that make a chocolate non-vegan.
Dairy chocolate contains a lot of sugar and fats, making it a high-calorie snack. Vegan chocolate isn't always made using sugar. Instead, they're made using agave or maple syrups, which makes it a healthier alternative.
Studies have shown that dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao has various health benefits. Lower risk of heart diseases, lower blood pressure, stress-relief, and improved immunity are just some of the health benefits. Cacao beans are a great source of protein, fiber, and minerals like iron and magnesium. They're rich in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids like catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins. And thus, dark chocolate is considered the healthiest and most vegan-friendly chocolate.
Most chocolates fall into three categories:
1. Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate is a combination of cocoa solids, milk products, and sugar. This chocolate option is rarely vegan as it contains milk unless the package states that plant-based milk is used.
2. White Chocolate: White chocolate isn’t technically a "chocolate", since it doesn’t contain cocoa solids. White chocolate always includes dairy products. But you can find vegan alternatives in the market.
3. Dark Chocolate: This chocolate is the most vegan-friendly. However, some sellers use dairy products to make them creamier.
Milk chocolate bar may contain as little as 10% cacao, while a dark chocolate bar may contain up to 90%. In general, look for chocolates with more cacao to reap all the health benefits.
List of ingredients that you need to avoid if you're looking for vegan chocolate:
Dairy products can sneak in using all kinds of clever names. It’s important to look for chocolates with a short ingredients list for healthier and higher-quality products.
1. Milk derivatives include whey, casein, lactose, or a statement such as “Contains milk”
2. Chocolates that include caramel or toffees and even candies always contain dairy.
3. If you find the cholesterol level greater than 0%, avoid it since cholesterol is only found in animal products.
4. Most chocolates contain some form of sugar specially refined sugar. If the refined sugar is bleached with bone char, that's not vegan. Consider chocolates made with no dairy and sweetened only with organic sugar or sugar alternatives.