Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Chocolate
If you have been living a vegan lifestyle for a while, you are probably used to having to find vegan alternatives or completely giving up certain food items. However, if you are just starting out and trying to deal with the cravings, you may find it extremely difficult. Well, here is one great alternative that you can add to your OK list. Vegan Chocolate. Yup, while vegans can not eat regular chocolate due to the milk ingredient, vegan chocolate is here to save you and add some flavor to your tasteless lives. I kid of course, but not being able to eat chocolate can be difficult. In case you are one of those aliens who doesn't like chocolate to begin with. But for the rest of us humans, chocolate is awesome and we often get those cravings, so for vegans, this is for you.
What Is Vegan Chocolate?
First of all, just because a chocolate is labelled dark chocolate, does not mean it is vegan. Actually many dark chocolates still contain milk, especially the cheaper, lower quality brands. But there is a way that you can enjoy chocolate as a vegan. Literally you just remove the milk ingredient. Ok, well its a little more than just that but still. Chocolate itself comes from a plant, right? So that already makes it vegan. However, the processes it goes through after it is harvested from the plant make it non-vegan. Before it reaches the grocery store, there are a lot of things that are added to it including sugar, milk, or milk fat. A good quality chocolate however will have a higher chocolate content, pure ingredients, and no additives. Those ingredients are typically cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes lecithin, oh and once in a while vanilla. But that is pretty much it. Plus, high quality chocolate actually has a handful of nutritional benefits.
Anything labelled "milk chocolate" will obviously contain milk products in it, which are, duh, not vegan. But true vegan chocolate will have the best parts of chocolate, without the milk. Cocoa butter, vegan. Cocoa, of course is vegan. Refined sugar is not vegan, but you know what is? Agave. Pinch of sea salt, vegan. And last but not least, vanilla. Voila! You have vegan chocolate.
Examples of Vegan Chocolate
For those of you who have literally no clue as to where to start looking for vegan chocolate, We have a few that we will go over. Or, you know, you could just google it. But then you wouldn't be able to see our awesome and detailed list! There are a surprising amount of brands that make vegan chocolate and vegan chocolate treats.
- Booja Booja- Available in both the US and England, these are made from 100% Ecuadorian chocolate. They have various flavors, but their most popular include raspberry truffle, and hazelnut crunch truffle.
- Creek House- This UK based chocolate company has a 6-piece vegan truffle box features many unique flavors including Berry Berry, Chili Mango, Dark Espresso, and Orange Coconut. It is all made from 66% high quality cacao chocolate. Not to mention it is also fairtrade and preservative free.
- Sweet Virtues- Another UK based company, they have a variety of finely made bars in various flavors. These include Ginseng Maqui Berry, and Baobab and Vanilla. Most of their products do contain soy, but are chock full of antioxidants from added superfoods.
- D's Naturals- No Cow- Here is a US based company that offers a variety of different bars made without cow's milk. Some of their flavors include chocolate fudge, blueberry cobbler, chocolate banana, dark raspberry, lemon meringue pie, mint cacao chip, peanut butter chocolate, and raspberry truffle. They also promise clean protein from brown rice and pea, in addition to natural sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia.
- Endangered Species- Back in the good ol US of A, this brand uses some of the highest amounts of cacao with levels ranging from 17-88%. This company also features ethically sources cocoa and gives 10% back to protect wildlife and their habitats. One of the most environmentally friendly brands out there.
Benefits of Cacao (Raw Chocolate)
First of all, cacao is related to cocoa, but they are not the same. Cacao is pretty much the unprocessed bean from a cocoa tree. Cocoa is after the beans have been processed and roasted. Normal cocoa powder and chocolate have usually been chemically processed and roasted, which destroys a large amount of the antioxidants and flavanols. A recent study found that between 60 and 90% of the original good stuff from cacao, aka the antioxidants, in cacao are lost through the common "Dutch Processing." This process was developed in the early 19th century to help reduce the bitterness , darken the color, and create a more mellow flavor to chocolate. But, it unfortunately kills a lot of the good stuff that makes cacao so awesome. But raw, fairtrade, sustainably sourced cacao can be awesome and has a ton of great benefits.
The first, of many great benefits of cacao, is the amount of antioxidants it naturally contains. Raw, organic cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants that you find in blueberries. 40! When comparing ORAC scores, cacao has a 98,000 per 100g rating, while blueberries come in at 2,400. That is a huge difference. Oh, and ORAC scores, if you didn't know, measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals, which cause cell and tissue damage and can lead to diseases like cancer.
Raw cacao have a huge amount of necessary minerals. Cacao is actually the highest plant-based source of iron, coming in at 7.3mg per 100g. This beats out both beef and lamb, which have 2.5mg and 3.6mg, respectively. However, to get the maximum benefits of this type of iron, it is best to combine it with a natural source of vitamin C, like oranges, kiwifruit, or superfoods like gubinge or camu camu.
It is also a great source of magnesium. Again, it is also the highest plant-based source. Magnesium is important for a healthy heart, and it helps turn glucose into energy which enables your brain to work with super focus and clarity.
Lastly, we have calcium. Now it is a common belief that cow's milk is the best source of calcium there is. But that is just not true. In fact, there are various nut milks that are a far better source. But you know what else is better? Yup, cacao. Cacao gives you 160mg of calcium per 100g, whereas cow's milk gives you about 125mg per 100ml.
If you constantly struggle with being in a mad mood or even depression, cacao may be the answer. Or it can at least help. Cacao is a great source of scientifically proven bliss chemicals, which are serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and can even alleviate depression.
Vegan chocolate is out there and it is not very hard to find. It has a ton of great health benefits and can be used in a number of great recipes. Plus, it allows vegans to be able to eat sweet, creamy chocolate again! And who doesn't love chocolate? Aliens, that's who. So the next time someone says that chocolate isn't good for you, they're probably right, unless you are eating raw cacao. But if they yell at you for not being vegan, you can now prove them wrong. For more information to use as a source for a Facebook argument, check out the rest of Green and Growing.