3 Healthy Alternatives To Chocolate
From cakes and pies to ice cream and other savory dessert treats, chocolate is a huge part of the shared culinary landscape. In fact, according to data from Statista, chocolate sales in the U.S. are expected to hit $22.4 billion annually by 2017. Yet despite its popularity, chocolate isn’t always the healthiest option for either snacking or baking. While it can reduce the risk of heart disease, the fat and sugar in chocolate can prove problematic in the long run. Luckily, you don’t have to live a life without the occasional sugar rush. Instead, there are plenty of cooking ingredients that a chef can utilize in the kitchen, each one packing just as much sweetness as any piece of chocolate.
What’s the easiest replacement for chocolate? Why chocolate itself, of course. Unlike its much more milky counterpart, dark chocolate is a decidedly healthier option. For one, it has noticeably less sugar, which is why it’s often the choice of ingredients for those with Type 2 Diabetes and other insulin management issues. The flavonoids in most dark chocolate are also helpful in allowing your body’s cells to function more effectively. Beyond the health benefits, dark chocolate is a much different flavor than other chocolate varieties. It’s much more rich and indulgent, the perfect mix of sugary sweetness and more subdued, almost earthy textures. However, because of the added flavor, some recipes will call for less dark chocolate than other forms, usually to better preserve the integrity of other ingredients.
Like dark chocolate, cocoa powder packs just as much chocolaty goodness in addition to several other vitamins and minerals. Cocoa powder is chock full of flavonoids and components like iron and and manganese, which help to improve the function of red blood cells. There are essentially two varieties of powder, and each one has its own unique flavor panel. Natural, unsweetened cocoa powder, which is often much lighter in color, has a more fruity taste, thanks to being completely unprocessed. Meanwhile, Dutch powder has been alkalized – or had its natural acidity reduced – which gives it much more of a nutty and decidedly mellow taste experience. Which powder you choose depends on your personal preference and what you want to add to the recipe. As such, it’s best to experiment with either mix.
Derived from a pod plant grown in mostly tropical climates, carob is similar to the cocoa powder form from which chocolate emanates. However, carob has a much different texture and taste than chocolate, one that has been described as a lot sweeter and more mild than its similarly colored counterpart. Additionally, carob has fewer calories and sugar than chocolate, and it also doesn’t have the added caffeine that has sometimes been linked to headaches. Carob can also be processed the same way as cocoa beans, although because the seeds are much more dense, it does require a bit of added effort. Because it lacks that certain bitter taste and is inherently more sweet, carob is usually best used with sugar-free recipes, including puddings, brownies and cheesecake.
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