Try the savory side of chocolate. (It’s divine!)
Come Valentine’s Day (or—let’s be honest—any day), you can’t go wrong with chocolate. Although chocolate is known as a key ingredient for sweet and decadent treats, you shouldn’t limit it to the end of the meal: It lends a rich complexity to savory dishes too. From a deeply flavored soup to a chocolaty twist on taco night, these recipes turn cacao into way more than just candy in a heart-shaped box; they prove it’s a healthy, sophisticated culinary weapon.
Chocolate: our fave superfood
Chocoholics rejoice! Research suggests that consuming a few servings of chocolate weekly can help lessen the risk of various forms of cardiovascular disease. Your ticker can benefit from a mere 3.5 oz in any given week—for most of us, that’s not hard to do. Researchers have also discovered that certain compounds in cocoa may help in the fight against insulin resistance.
The body-benefiting powers of chocolate can likely be chalked up to its lofty antioxidant content, which can improve various health markers in the body, including inflammation. Certain chocolate products are also a source of vital minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
Generally, the darker the chocolate—meaning the higher the cacao content—the greater the antioxidant and mineral content and the lower the amount of sugar. So you’ll reap more health rewards from consuming unsweetened cacao nibs and dark chocolate containing 60 percent or more cacao (versus milk chocolate products).
To help support workers in the cacao industry, always buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate.
Cocoa versus cacao: What’s the difference?
When shopping for chocolate products, you’ve likely noticed that some labels say they contain cacao while others say cocoa.
The various types of chocolate are made from fermented and dried cacao beans from the Theobroma cacao tree. While there’s not a universal agreement on when manufacturers will use the terms cacao and cocoa, in general, the term “cacao” is reserved for less processed forms of the cacao bean, such as cacao nibs (simply smashed-up roasted cacao beans) and natural or “raw” cacao powder. Dark chocolate bars may list either cacao or cocoa. Generally, for a bar to be considered “dark” it should contain at least 60 percent cacao/cocoa.