Utilizing chocolate for snacks
March 2, 2012
Just when spring seemed right around the corner, winter decided to get in one last go around. My suggestion: warm up and cheer up with some smooth hot chocolate. A lot of people turn to chocolate as a pick me-up, a sensible choice as the effects go beyond your taste buds and release a decent amount of chemicals.
Many have heard the adage an apple a day, but what about a piece of chocolate a day? Studies have proven that certain types of chocolate in moderation can actually have a positive impact on your health. The key is choosing the right kind.
Chocolate is categorized by the amount of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor and additives such as sugar. To start, there is cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. Both are commonly used in baking rather than eating in the raw form and have strong, rich, and sometimes bitter flavors. The latter, unsweetened, is the base in all other chocolate forms besides white.
Dark chocolate contains no milk solids and the cocoa content can range from 30 percent to between 70 and 80 percent. Bittersweet, which the Food and Drug Administration defines as having at least 35 percent cocoa solids and semi-sweet, would also be considered dark chocolate. The difference in sweetness is due to the lack of regulation of the amount of sugar in the chocolate. Don’t be surprised if one brand’s bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate tastes a lot sweeter than another brand’s.
In terms of health, it is arguably the most beneficial. Being packed with flavonoids that act as antioxidants, dark chocolate can help protect your heart from free radicals. In comparison, it contains about eight times the amount of antioxidants that strawberries hold.
The benefits extend to your cholesterol and blood pressure as well. According to Mark Stibich, Ph.D., in an article on Health Benefits of Chocolate, dark chocolate has shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent and lower blood pressure in those who have been known to have high blood pressure.
Besides heart protecting qualities, it also stimulates endorphin and serotonin production, for pleasure and anti-depressant effects. All in all, moderate dark chocolate indulgence a day could benefit you.
Milk chocolate is usually much sweeter, making it a good candidate for candy bars. This variety contains either milk solids or condensed milk. Contents it holds are actually regulated with the U.S. requiring at least 10 percent chocolate liquor, 3.39 percent butterfat, and 12 percent milk solids.
Though many prefer the creamy taste over the bitterness of dark chocolate it would be hard to argue health benefits in milk chocolate.
White chocolate falls into the no health benefits category as well and often times doesn’t even taste like chocolate. With no chocolate liquor or cocoa products besides cocoa butter as ingredients it has more of a vanilla flavor. Contents in white chocolate are also regulated, with a minimum set at 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids, and a maximum of 55 percent sugar. This type is great for many of the same uses as either of the above varieties such as candy, baking, and drinks flavorings.
Understanding the differences between chocolate varieties will help you choose which type to use depending on which type of flavor notes you are seeking. Pick your favorite and warm up with this recipe as you wait for spring.
Hot Cocoa Cookies
1 c. butter, room temp.
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. marshmallow fluff
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until combined. Stir in marshmallow fluff.
Fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows. Cover and chill for 30 min. to an hour. Roll into 1-1/2-inch balls and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes making sure they are fully cooked. They will be sticky from the marshmallows so allow them to cool completely and possibly even stick them in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Gently remove with a spatula, let sit another 30 minutes.
Brittney Pfenning-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.