White chocolate is so distinct from dark and milk chocolate that you might wonder whether or not it is even a type of real chocolate. This confection typically appears as an off-white color rather than the deep brown color characteristic of pure chocolate. This is namely because white chocolate contains no actual cocoa powder! So, what exactly is it and can it really be considered chocolate?
The Anatomy of White Chocolate
Although white chocolate does not contain any cocoa powder, it does contain a portion of the cocoa bean:
Chocolate makers remove cocoa beans from their pods, which come from the Theobroma cacao tree. The processes of fermentation, drying, and roasting, yield cocoa liquor, which can produce cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Cocoa powder contributes the brown color and characteristic flavor of dark and milk chocolate; white chocolate contains only cocoa butter, and not cocoa powder.
In addition to cocoa butter, white chocolate also has sugar, milk and vanilla in its make-up. Since its properties are so similar to those of dark and milk chocolate, chocolatiers can use it in many of the same ways and in many of the same recipes. You can find, for example, white chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, and truffles alongside dark and milk chocolate choices.
Fat in Cocoa Butter: A Potential Health Benefit
Cocoa butter is high in saturated fats, which are infamous for increasing blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol and raising your risk for heart disease. However, it is important to note that not all saturated fat is necessarily harmful. An exception, for example, is stearic acid, the primary type of saturated fat found in cocoa butter. In a review article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, J. Edward Hunger and colleagues explain that foods with stearic acid are neutral rather than harmful. Other scientific articles available online even go on to suggest that stearic acid is beneficial to heart health if consumed in moderation. So, were you hesitant to indulge in white chocolate simply because you were concerned about the saturated fat? Hopefully this will help swing you in the other direction.
No Flavonoids in White Chocolate
Cocoa powder, and therefore dark chocolate, contains antioxidants called flavonoids. These heart-healthy compounds may improve blood circulation and lower overall blood pressure according to colleagues in a study in the International Journal of Cardiology. White chocolate does not in fact have flavonoids or provide these specific benefits. It also does not have as much iron, zinc, magnesium, or potassium as dark chocolate.
So, while white chocolate doesn’t necessarily contain all of the heart healthy components of its dark and milk chocolate cousins, it does contain cocoa butter which may in fact contribute to a healthy diet if consumed in moderation; this, in our opinion, also qualifies it as being a ‘real’ chocolate.
Please note that not all white chocolate is created equal: some companies may use cheap alternatives to cocoa butter when making their white chocolate which will significantly reduce the overall taste and quality of the product and ultimately take away any potential health benefits. Rest assured that at Asher’s, all of our white chocolate is made with cocoa butter and that we’ll never make any substitutions that will negatively impact quality and taste. Feeling hungry now? Check out our wide selection white chocolate treats!