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The Final Proof: October 2013

Dark for the heart

Written by Jane Dummer, RD

Have you ever wondered if dark chocolate really does your heart good? The simple answer is yes, but there is a more complex explanation. Cocoa has long been associated with the heart (and love). Now, modern-day studies are showing the association between cocoa and heart health. Studies have concluded flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa products may have a statistically significant effect on lowering blood pressure. Cocoa’s mineral content is impressive providing 200 milligrams of potassium and 15 per cent of your daily magnesium need in just one ounce.

Cocoa’s mineral content provides an impressive 200 milligrams of potassium and 15 per cent of your daily magnesium in one ounce.

In June, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that theobromine, one of the active compounds in cocoa, may raise HDL (happy) cholesterol. Can there be too much of a good thing? The simple answer is yes. As wonderful as it is, the cocoa bean contains approximately 50 per cent fat. One ounce of unsweetened, dark chocolate provides a hefty 148 calories and 16 grams of fat versus cocoa powder at 21 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per ounce.

I’ve never been a chocoholic and I’ve always had more of a salt tooth than a sweet tooth. However, I may be in trouble now. One of the top trends discussed at IFT in Chicago in July was the increase of chocolate products such as salted, dark chocolate caramels (yum); wasabi-infused dark bars and hot cocoa with chili. These products are giving consumers (including me) both a salty and a bittersweet experience. Think moderation! Food Technology magazine senior editor Don Pszczola explains: “There are a variety of new ways to add appeal to chocolate through unusual mixtures of textures and flavours from everything to colour and shape. This is a growing trend for cocoa and chocolate applications.”

Jill Frank, head chocoholic and owner of online The Dark Chocolate Bakery, explains the reasons she decided to specialize in dark chocolate in a country (U.S.) that loves milk chocolate and candy bars.

“My taste buds are a magnet to dark chocolate. Seventy percent or higher cocoa content and my taste buds sing. I had read this study that as you get older your taste buds change from liking super sweet milk chocolate to more of a bitter dark chocolate, and I guess I’m a walking testament to that case study! Once I knew I wanted to focus on dark chocolate, my research showed that there are very few options when it comes to dark chocolate baked goods. So I started experimenting with different flavour profiles mixing dark chocolates from Valrhona, Scharffenberger and EGuittard with blood orange and raspberry and then adding cognac, Jack Daniels and tequila with flavourful roasted nuts, and then I knew I was on to something.”

It seems that North Americans are moving toward more dark chocolate bakery options. Frank agrees.

“I’ve noticed an increase in demand for a variety of dark chocolate cake options. In America, it is quite typical to find a seven layer dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate butter cream icing in many major restaurants. What’s been wonderful is for the first time there are now many options for dark chocolate cake lovers! We feature an entremet cake, which is basically composed of several layers of complementary flavours. For example, we start with a bittersweet chocolate cake with a flavour profile consisting of notes of ripe raspberry and cherry that melts smoothly into rounder date and cinnamon flavours. Then I surround the cake layer with a spicy blood orange mousse layer and then top with crunchy chocolate pearls as an accent. The bittersweet layer complements the mousse and so on.”

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