Scientists have managed to boost the antioxidant content of chocolate. They made the dark pleasure healthier by tweaking the production methodologies.
Food science is gaining significant traction, as scientists are revisiting and questioning eons-old cooking methods. Last week, researchers proved how, by adding a few ingredients, rice became a healthier addition to our meals. This time, chemists have shown that by simply changing the way they store and roast cacao beans, they can boost chocolate’s antioxidant content. As an added bonus, the differently processed beans produce chocolate that tastes a lot better, according to early tasters.
A team from the University of Ghana and Ghent University in Belgium discovered that simply by storing cacao bean pods unopened for seven days before slow-roasting them at a lower temperature, they can produce chocolate that’s more flavorful and has a higher percentage of polyphenols – the class of blood vessel-supporting antioxidants also found in red wine.
There has always been a trade-off between preserving the “healthy stuff” and giving the chocolate a great flavor. Traditionally, after cacao pods are harvested, they’re immediately split open so that the white or purple cacao beans can be removed and fermented. The beans are then roasted at a temperature of around 120 degrees Celsius (248 Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes, which develops their rich, chocolate-y taste. Unfortunately, this process severely degrades their antioxidant content. In other words, the chocolate tastes good, but has lost most of its healthy components.
The team of researchers has managed to significantly minimize this degradation, simply by changing the way the beans are stored and roasted, explained lead researcher Emmanual Ohene Afoakwa.
“We decided to add a pod-storage step before the beans were even fermented to see whether that would have an effect on the polyphenol content. This is not traditionally done, and this is what makes our research fundamentally different.”
Having extensively tested different combinations of storage time and roasting temperatures, the researchers found that beans stored for seven days had the highest antioxidant content after being roasted. As for the time beans will spend in the oven and the temperatures, that’s still being perfected, admitted the researchers.
Afoakwa cautions that it is only the dark chocolate that contains high amounts of cocoa (the roasted derivative of cacao beans). He confirmed that the next step is to tweak the roasting time to see if there’s a way to preserve even more antioxidants and flavor in the chocolate making process.
[Image Credit | Coconut Cream Care]