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Sugar in Chocolate: Better than No Sugar?

Sugar is a US$ 70 Billion industry. We all know the bad reputation of consuming excessive sugar, with its well-documented health implications. However, a recent study conducted in the UK has shed light on a particularly sweet concern—chocolate. Over the course of 25 years, from 1992 to 2017, this study reveals a staggering 23% increase in the sugar content of chocolate products, posing questions about the impact of this indulgence on our health and prompting a closer examination of the sugar-chocolate relationship. Let's delve into the complex world of , exploring its role, effects, and the evolving landscape of our favourite -based treats.

Is there a lot of sugar in chocolate?

The amount of sugar in chocolate varies depending on the type of chocolate. Let's talk about first.

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Dark chocolate, which is high in cocoa, contains much less sugar than milk or . The sugar content of chocolate can also vary between brands and specific products. Here are some examples of the sugar content in different types of chocolate:

  • An average-sized bar of dark chocolate (around 45g), specifically those with 70-85% cocoa, contains about 10-12 grams of sugar. For instance, 78% dark chocolate has 18g of sugar per 100g,
  • Milk chocolate has higher sugar content than dark chocolate. As an example, Lindt 100g of milk chocolate has 52g of sugar. So, for 45g of milk chocolate bar, it contains roughly 23.4 grams of sugar.
  • White chocolate tends to have the highest sugar content, with an average-sized bar (around 45g) containing roughly 27 grams of sugar.

We know that chocolate bars are not the only variety of chocolate that we can consume. Now, what about the sugar level in confectionery chocolate?

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One Ferrero Rocher chocolate piece contains 5 grams of sugar, or about 39.9 grams of sugar per 100 grams of serving. Seashells Chocolate contains 47 grams of sugar per 100 grams of serving. A regular-sized Snickers bar contains 27 grams of sugar.

Is there a maximum sugar intake per day?

Yes, there is. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides guidelines for limiting free sugars intake to less than 10% of total energy intake to prevent excess body weight and dental caries, and to less than 5% for additional health benefits. Free sugars include sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, and consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.

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So how much is 10% of total energy intake in grams? Assuming a 2000-calorie diet, the daily intake of free sugars should be no more than 200 calories or 50 grams of sugar. This means two regular-sized Snickers bars a day is already too much. Generally, as a guideline, the estimated total calorie intake for adult female ranged from 1,600 to 2,400 calories, while for male it's 2,000 to 3,000 calories.

What kind of sugar is in chocolate?

In general, there are three main types of sugar found in chocolate products:

  1. Sucrose: Sucrose is the most common type of sugar found in chocolate. It is a disaccharide sugar composed of two monosaccharides – fructose and glucose.
  2. Glucose: Glucose is another common type of sugar found in chocolate. It is a monosaccharide sugar that is often used as a sweetener in chocolate products.
  3. Fructose: Fructose is also a monosaccharide sugar that is found in chocolate. It is often used as a sweetener in chocolate products, and is present in equal portions with glucose in sucrose.

Why does chocolate need sugar?

Chocolate needs sugar for several reasons. Firstly, sugar provides sweetness to chocolate, enhancing its overall taste and making it more enjoyable to consume. The combination of sugar and cocoa flavors creates the characteristic flavor profile that is associated with chocolate. Secondly, sugar plays a crucial role in the texture and mouthfeel of chocolate.

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How does sugar affect chocolate?

The presence of sugar significantly influence the structure of chocolate. Sugar serves multiple crucial roles in the composition and characteristics of chocolate. Sucrose, the primary sugar component in chocolate, plays a pivotal role in determining its structural attributes. Basically, sugar affects how cocoa butter forms crystals. More specifically, sugar helps control how these crystals start growing and how fast they get bigger. This process influences how thick or runny the chocolate feels when it's in its liquid form.

These cocoa butter crystals affect the structural properties of chocolate, encompassing aspects such as snap and visual appeal. Therefore, different strategies for reformulating chocolate, including sugar reduction or replacement, can cause a significant impact on crystallization behaviour, subsequently affecting the structural and sensorial attributes of chocolate.

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Therefore, reducing the sugar content in chocolate poses a considerable challenge due to its essential role in providing structural integrity and sweetness. Sugar contributes to the hardness of chocolate and has a role in inhibiting gluten development in biscuits. Nonetheless, in response to the growing consumer demand for healthier chocolate options with reduced sugar content, confectionery companies have embarked on the development of novel chocolate recipes aimed at enhancing the nutritional profile of chocolate products while reducing the levels of high saturated fat and sugar.

It is important to note that the effect of sugar on the structure of chocolate extends beyond its technical properties and structural implications. Consumer perception and liking are intimately connected with sugar content in chocolate products. Research studies have revealed that sugar content plays a significant role in shaping overall liking and purchase intent for chocolate milk. For instance, consumers may find chocolate milk with reduced sugar content less appealing compared to the sugared counterpart.

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In conclusion, sugar plays a pivotal role in shaping the structure of chocolate, influencing cocoa butter crystallization, texture, and sensorial attributes. While reducing sugar content in chocolate presents challenges, the growing demand for healthier options has driven the development of alternative formulations. These endeavours, which include the exploration of sugar-free chocolate formulations with alternative sweeteners and bioactive ingredients, have profound effects on the texture, rheology, and sensory properties of chocolate.

Is no sugar chocolate better for you?

While cutting sugar is ideal for one's health, no sugar chocolate is not necessarily better for you. One of the primary drawbacks of no-sugar chocolate is that it may not taste as sweet as traditional chocolate. Sugar contributes to the sweet flavour and smooth texture of chocolate, so sugar substitutes can alter the taste and mouthfeel.

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Moreover, some no-sugar chocolates use artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols as replacements for sugar. These may cause digestive discomfort in some individuals if consumed in excess.

Since sugar plays a paramount role in chocolate structure, the absence of it will cause a new challenge. Manufacturers often need to use additives or other ingredients to compensate for this texture difference.

What is a sugar substitute in chocolate?

There are several alternatives that can be used as replacements for sugar in chocolate to reduce the overall sugar content while still maintaining the structure and texture of the chocolate. Some options include:

  1. Stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is significantly sweeter than sugar and has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Stevia can be used as a sugar substitute in chocolate to provide sweetness without the added calories and potential health risks associated with sugar.
  2. Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in certain fruits and fermented foods. It has a similar sweetness to sugar but contains fewer calories and has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Erythritol can be used as a sugar substitute in chocolate to reduce the overall sugar content while maintaining sweetness and texture.

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3. Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener derived from the sap of coconut palm trees. It has a lower glycemic index compared to regular sugar and contains some beneficial nutrients. Coconut sugar can be used as a replacement for sugar in chocolate to provide sweetness and contribute to the overall structure of the chocolate.

4. Nestle's Hollow Sugar: In March 2018, Nestlé introduced “Wowsomes,” a white chocolate bar that contained 30% less sugar compared to their classic Milky Bar. The creation of this product involved the use of a cutting-edge technique known as “hollow sugar” technology. This innovative approach employs a type of sugar that is aerated and porous, causing it to dissolve rapidly in the mouth.

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It is important to note that when using alternative sweeteners in chocolate, the formulation and processing techniques may need to be adjusted to achieve the desired taste and texture. Additionally, the use of alternative sweeteners may result in slight differences in flavour compared to traditional sugar-sweetened chocolate.

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