29 May 2024

Technologists have found a way to make chocolate healthier

Swiss researchers and chocolate makers have developed a recipe that makes the dessert healthier. The new technology also reduces the amount of waste from production.

The cacao fruit is similar in structure to a melon. Underneath the hard rind is the pulp that surrounds the seeds (cocoa beans). Only the cocoa beans are used to make chocolate, and all other parts of the fruit are not needed.

Researchers from the Swiss University of Technology Zurich, together with the Swiss chocolate factory Max Felchlin AG, have developed a recipe for cocoa-fruit chocolate that uses the pulp of the fruit and the inside of its peel in addition to the beans. The results of the experiment were published in the journal Nature Food.

The authors of the work turned the inner part of the peel into a powder and mixed it with the pulp. The result was cocoa gel - a very sweet jelly-like substance that allowed not to add icing sugar to chocolate.

The ideal ratio of ingredients, at which the chocolate was sweet enough and had the right texture, was determined experimentally. It turned out that about 20 per cent of cocoa gel is equivalent in sweetness to 5-10 per cent of icing sugar (in ordinary dark chocolate 30-40 per cent of icing sugar). Too much juice released from the pulp made the chocolate lumpy, and when there wasn't enough of it, the dessert turned out bitter.

Experts from the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland helped identify the correct proportions of ingredients. They tasted five grams each of "traditional" chocolate with different content of icing sugar and cocoa-fruit chocolate, and then assessed the degree of sweetness of different types of dessert.

Compared to dark chocolate from the classic European recipe, cocoa-fruit chocolate contains almost 20% more fibre, which is essential for normal bowel function and blood sugar regulation. In addition, it has about 30% less saturated fat, which in excessive consumption is harmful to the body, for example, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Importantly, the use of cacao fruit makes chocolate production more environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Farmers will be able to diversify their product range, reduce waste and increase their earnings if they start using not just the beans, but almost all of the cocoa fruit. People who grow cacao will have the opportunity to sell components for cocoa gel to chocolate makers.

Although cocoa-fruit chocolate is easy to make, superior in benefits to "traditional" chocolate and not dissimilar in flavour, it will not be on the shelves any time soon, the researchers said. According to them, before industrial production it is necessary, at least, to provide manufacturers with equipment for drying peels and to stock enough powder for cocoa gel.

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