For years we’ve heard the numerous health benefits of dark chocolate, but that hasn’t stopped its sweeter and more popular sister, milk chocolate, taking centre stage.
But now scientists have found a way of enriching milk chocolate with the beneficial antioxidants that are associated with the dark variety.
Dark chocolate has high levels of phenolic compounds, which are said to have anti-inflammatory properties which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. They are also the reason behind its bitter flavour.
However, researchers working for the United States government have found how to incorporate these benefits into milk chocolate by adding peanut skin extract – a product which is usually leftover when peanut butter and sweets are made. This means people can still enjoy sweet milk chocolate with the added benefits.
Researchers found peanut skin extract raises antioxidant levels while maintaining the chocolate’s sweet flavour and creamy texture. The end product therefore tastes the same as milk chocolate – so no flavour is sacrificed in the process.
Lisa Dean, a food technologist for the US Agricultural Research Service, said: ‘We could use our ingredient to make milk chocolate with the same antioxidant level as dark chocolate without being bitter and hard like dark chocolate.
‘If you are an average consumer and do not have a high sense of bitterness such as found in “super tasters“, you should be able to consume the treated milk chocolate and not find a difference. They do not look different, either.’
Lisa and her team took the red skins which surround peanut kernels and ground them into a powder before extracting the phenolic compounds. This powder was then combined with food additive maltodextrin to make it easier to incorporate into the final product.
The researchers then tried their formulation of chocolate on a panel who sampled several versions of the chocolate with different amounts of phenolic compounds. They found that chocolate with 8% of phenolic compounds had the best balance of flavour and texture.
Lisa Dean also identified that peanut allergies may be a concern for people, so her team tested for the presence of allergens but found none in the chocolate. However, they have stressed that products containing the powder will still come with a warning.
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