A question that comes up often from members in our vegan cookery course is whether chocolate is vegan or not. And a well deserved question this is!
For people considering a plant based and vegan diet, it’s important to be aware of what foods you can or cannot eat - and with chocolate being an oh’ so delicious way to treat ourselves there’s no doubt in our mind why this question comes up so often.
So let’s dive into this question here and now.
The answer is...it depends!
Milk chocolate is of course not vegan, unless you find a vegan alternative made with plant-based milk. It will be easier to find in health shops or vegan supermarkets (if you’re lucky enough to have one in your area).
And if you’re a dark chocolate lover, then don’t worry: good quality dark chocolate should be 100% plant-based, its main ingredients being pure cocoa and sugar.
However, it’s true that pure cocoa butter is expensive, so some brands add butter or other dairy products to their dark chocolate to make it creamier.
To make sure your chocolate is 100% plant-based, you’ll therefore have to go through the ingredients list to check if they contain any animal products, especially dairy.
Checking all the ingredients may take some time the first time you do it, but the good thing is that you’ll discover that many of your favourite brands will have several vegan options in their normal range. So, no need to pay a premium for vegan dark chocolate.
To speed up the process, you can also check the list of allergens in each product, and exclude straightaway the bars containing dairy (dairy is an allergen so it will be listed there or highlighted in the ingredients list).
So, the good news is that there are many options of vegan chocolate you can choose from and you can continue enjoying your favourite treat without any problem.
Whilst Chocolate to many people is a guilty pleasure, eating 'plant based chocolate' aka Dark Chocolate does in fact have a huge host of health benefits.
Cocoa has many nutritional benefits:
First of all, it’s full of antioxidants such as flavonoids, which are thought to be anti-inflammatory and beneficial for our cardiovascular health.
In fact, several studies suggest that dark chocolate may have cardio protective benefits, improve endothelial function, prevent and even reduce vascular inflammation and lower blood pressure in overweight adults.
It’s important to say though that the high sugar content of many chocolate products may reduce these benefits (and cause other health issues), so it’s important to choose dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (70% or more) and a low content of sugar.
Cocoa is also a very good source of key nutrients such as protein, dietary fibre and minerals including magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and phosphorus.
Has anybody ever told you that to get enough iron you need to eat red meat?
But is that even true? Let’s compare the iron content of red meat with that of cocoa.
According to USDA, 100 g of cocoa powder contain almost 14 mg of iron while the same quantity of beef only contains between 2 and 5 mg, depending on the different brands and cuts. So, cocoa has a much higher iron content.
And remember that iron is better absorbed when associated with vitamin C, so if you have issues with this nutrient, a handful of dark chocolate and a fruit such as kiwi or citrus fruits are a great natural supplement.
Let’s face it, the only problem with cocoa and dark chocolate is that they are so delicious that we tend to over-eat them! So, let’s make sure we keep our daily portion to no more than a handful of dark chocolate (around 20 g).
Are you looking for a healthy and delicious way of enjoying cocoa?
Try this low-sugar choco-banana smoothie 🍌 🍫
Ingredients (serves 1)
- 1 frozen banana (preferably very ripe for a sweeter taste)
- 1 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder or 2 tbsps. of cocoa nibs
- 1 cup of almond milk (preferably fortified with calcium)
Blend all the ingredients until smooth and enjoy!