For years we’ve been told dark chocolate is better for us. But scientists have good news – they’ve found a way of making milk chocolate healthier.
Dark chocolate, which usually has a more bitter taste, contains phenolic compounds which can act as an antioxidant.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers working for the United States government have found how to incorporate these benefits in milk chocolate by adding peanut skin extract – usually leftover when peanut butter and sweets are made.
This raises the antioxidant levels while maintaining the chocolate’s sweet flavour and creamy texture.
The team from the US Agricultural Research Service ground up the skins into powder, extracted the phenolic compounds and then combined it with a food additive.
Adding the peanut skins to milk chocolate could give the same wellbeing boost at a fraction of the cost of dark chocolate, which is more expensive than milk varieties due to its higher cocoa content.
Lisa Dean, the project’s lead investigator, said: ‘Dark chocolate is thought to be healthier as it contains high levels of compounds called polyphenols.
‘These compounds are also responsible for the bitter flavor.
‘Dark chocolate is also lower in cocoa fat and sugar than milk chocolate.
‘Most people prefer milk chocolate because it is sweeter, not bitter. It also melts in the mouth easier and has more pleasing ‘mouthfeel’.
‘Dark chocolate has a hard texture and melts at a higher temperature.
‘This product has the potential of providing consumers with the same level of polyphenols as dark chocolate but without the less desirable characteristics.
‘Peanuts skins are very inexpensive as there are usually just pelleted for animal feed or dumped in landfills.
‘There are some patents already in place for using nuts skins, including peanut skins as a food ingredient which are owned by Mars, Inc.
‘If some processor wanted to scale up the process and use the ingredient it could one day appear in retail stores.’
In fact, many of the taste testers preferred the milk chocolate with the peanut extract added.