Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Cocoa beans contain very high levels of antioxidants and products derived from this healthy beans are touted as health foods by the industry. However its rich fat content, especially the saturated ones and incorporation of large quantities of sugar make chocolates a prime suspect as a villain against mankind by fomenting many disorders that afflict modern society. It is only during the last few years the chocolate industry has taken pains to reduce at least sugar and increase the cocoa solids, mostly garden dark chocolates or bitter chocolates. However reducing fat is still a challenge because the texture and the typical biting characteristics depend heavily on the fat content. At least that is what has been understood till recently. However this perception is likely to change after the recent discovery that fat in chocolate can be reduced up to 50% by suitable modification of the process and incorporation of fruit juices. Here is a take on this new exciting development.

"We all love chocolate but many of us try to avoid it in the fear of gaining weight. Now, scientists have found a way to replace up to 50 per cent of fat content in chocolate with fruit juice. University of Warwick chemists have taken out much of the cocoa butter and milk fats that go into chocolate bars, substituting them with tiny droplets of juice measuring under 30 microns in diameter. They infused orange and cranberry juice into milk, dark and white chocolate using what is known as a Pickering emulsion. Significantly, the clever chemistry does not take away the chocolatey 'mouth-feel' given by the fatty ingredients. This is because the new technique maintains the prized Polymorph V content, the substance in the crystal structure of the fat which gives chocolate its glossy appearance, firm and snappy texture but which also allows it to melt smoothly in the mouth. The final product will taste fruity – but there is the option to use water and a small amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) instead of juice to maintain a chocolatey taste. Study's lead author Dr Stefan Bon from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick said the research looked at the chemistry behind reducing fat in chocolate, but now it was up to the food industry to use this new technique to develop tasty ways to use it in chocolate. "Everyone loves chocolate – but unfortunately we all know that many chocolate bars are high in fat. However it's the fat that gives chocolate all the indulgent sensations that people crave – the silky smooth texture and the way it melts in the mouth but still has a 'snap' to it when you break it with your hand," Dr Bon said. "We've found a way to maintain all of those things that make chocolate 'chocolatey' but with fruit juice instead of fat. "Our study is just the starting point to healthier chocolate – we've established the chemistry behind this new technique but now we're hoping the food industry will take our method to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars," he added. The scientists used food-approved ingredients to create a pickering emulsion, which prevents the small droplets from merging with each other".

If the above findings get translated into commercial products in the market, the future of chocolate industry is expected to be bright in the coming years. Interestingly fruit natural juices will sweeten the product to some extent sparing that much added sugar. Sensibly the cocoa powder, a by-product of chocolate industry containing only about 6-10% fat is a much superior health ingredient that can be used in many traditional sweetmeat preparations that can lend rich color and flavor liked universally. Still chocolate has a distinct place of its own in the choice of foods by young as well the old. The attempts like the above one in reducing fat significantly in chocolate products  are indeed welcome.


No comments: