Our ongoing love affair with chocolate
Posted on 27th January 2021 at 07:09
Having talked about diet a couple of weeks’ ago and why “rubbish in, rubbish out” doesn’t just apply to computers – click here if you missed it (!) – we’re going to continue on a similar theme this week. Sadly, it’s another example of our natural survival instincts inadvertently working against us. However, having said that, there can also be various emotional factors at play, such as comfort eating, even if we tend not to be aware of them.
So, what are we talking about? Our naturally sweet tooth.
Turn the clock back to our distant “hunter gatherer” ancestors and the simple association of something sweet being good to eat, was one of our important survival instincts. It ensured that foods, primarily fruits, were only eaten when ripe and kept us away from those that weren’t. And if you’ve eaten any fruit before it’s ripe, you’ll know there are other repercussions other than it not being very palatable (!).
Fast forward a few centuries and raw sugar or honey started being added to foods. Not only to make them more palatable – or allow them to be stored over winter – but as part of new ways of cooking, leading to many of the sweet luxuries we still know today.
However, in the last few decades, this association has become our downfall. As foods have become increasingly processed, the amount of sugar in our diet has slowly increased. While many processed foods may taste and look similar to those cooked at home, their ingredients are very different, particularly in the amount of sugar they contain.
As already mentioned, sugar is not only used to make food more palatable – in both taste and texture – but also to extend its shelf life. And, while it’s easy to assume that sugar wouldn’t be added to savoury foods, it often is, making it difficult to keep track of exactly how much sugar is being consumed. If you’re in any doubt, just look at the ingredient on the label or the nutritional content.
However, regardless of the reason for the sugar being added, the end result is the same. Our taste buds are hijacked without us every realising it and we start craving foods which contain sugar, with all too predictable results.
At this point in the conversation with Clients, we usually get the same reaction. It’s along the lines that we’re killjoys and suggesting they shouldn’t have any sweet treats.
However, this isn’t the case. We’re simply encouraging them to think about what they’re eating rather than stretching for the first – and most convenient – thing they can find.
A good example of this is our perennial love affair with chocolate. Its easy to find but, all too often, is more sugar than chocolate. Acting as a sugar “fix” rather than anything else. And a look at the purple wrapper of a favourite chocolate treat will give you the idea:
Ingredients: Milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegetable fats (palm, shea), emulsifiers (E442, E476), flavourings.
Nutritional Values per 100g: Energy 534 Calories, Fat 30g (of which saturates 18g), Carbohydrates 57g (of which sugars 56g), Fibre 2.1g, Protein 7.3g, Salt 0.14g.
Now let’s look at these figures another way. To start with, many people don’t seem to realise that the ingredients are listed in their relative amounts. So, the main ingredient is milk, with sugar next and actual chocolate third.
If you then look at the nutritional values, 100g of chocolate provides over ¼ of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake. Yet, most people just see a bar of chocolate as a snack…
Read on and you’ll find that 30g of the bar is fat and 56g sugar. Or, put another way, it’s 30% fat, 56% sugar.
As an occasional treat this isn’t so much an issue but, for all too many people, it’s part of their daily diet…
If you’re in any doubt about our ongoing love affair with chocolate, while writing this post we googled figures for our annual consumption of chocolate. The most recent figures we could find were from a report written in 2019 using figures from 2017.
By country, it was estimated that Switzerland had the greatest chocolate consumption per person, followed by Austria and Germany, with the UK in fourth place. USA was down in 9th. Now the scary bit. Do you want to guess what the figures were? We were astounded, particularly when you remember these are average figures.
Switzerland came in at 8.8 kg, just under 20 lbs, per person per year.
Austria at 8.1kg, just under 18lbs.
Germany at 7.9 kg, about 17 lbs.
Now for the UK, at 7.6 kg, about 16lbs.
You may want to read those figures again and just think of the pile of chocolate bars it represents…
And this is just one sweet treat which we all know contains substantial amounts of sugar. What about all those other treats, let alone the foods we never stop to think about?
So, is there a way to continue getting our chocolate “fix” without all the sugar and fat? Well, yes, BUT it’s going to involve a different approach. Moving over to a better quality dark chocolate bar. By doing so, not only will you actually be eating chocolate – rather than predominately sugar – but it’ll be much more satisfying; meaning you’ll eat much less of it.
By better quality, we mean an organic and fairtrade product. This means that the raw material, the cocoa, has been produced in a much more environmentally and sustainable way. Equally important, the workers have been well treated and paid a living wage. This in in stark comparison to many of the cheaper products, which rely on child labour to keep their costs down, alongside the intensive use of chemicals to maximise the amount produced.
By dark chocolate we mean one produced with at least 70% cocoa. This gives a more intense flavour, which means you’ll want much less of it to get your “chocolate fix”, compared to its sugary cousins. As an added bonus, many dark chocolate bars are dairy free because the fat in the cocoa mass provides the all important “mouth feel.”
If you want to see this in action, a look at the wrapper of an organic, fairtrade 70% dark chocolate bar from our local Co op illustrates the difference:
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla.
Nutritional Values per 100g: Energy 566 Calories, Fat 41g (of which saturates 24g), Carbohydrates 34g (of which sugars 29g), Protein 9.5g, Salt 0.1g.
You’ll quickly notice the differences. To start with, here, cocoa is the main ingredient. Even better, the list of ingredients is much shorter so it easily meets the “5 ingredients or less” rule of thumb (!).
Calorie wise, it’s very similar to the milk chocolate BUT the sugar content is significantly lower. However, with it being much more satisfying, you’ll only want a piece – or two (!) – easily solving several different issues at once!
So, there you have it. An easy way to still have your chocolate “fix” without all the downsides.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture from unknown author
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