The scientific name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao, which to no surprise means “food of the gods”. Chocolate has been around for more than 3000 years, and its origins trace back to the Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations. They all used the fruit of the cacao tree as a medicinal drink and held the cacao tree sacred, even burying dignitaries with bowls of chocolate!
Throughout history, cacao has been used in many various ways, from fermenting it for an alcoholic beverage to brewing it for a bitter tea. Today, we get to enjoy it in all sorts of forms, from hot chocolate to decadent slabs in an abundance of flavors.
But when reading the wordchocolate, you might get led astray. That last syllable, '-late', is very similar to the Italian 'latte' or even the French 'lait', both meaning 'milk'. Indeed, milk is one of the ingredients in many commercial chocolate bars on the market. However, milk was never a primary ingredient in the history of chocolate, and by nature, chocolate itself is, in fact, vegan!
If you love chocolate, you’re probably already familiar with vegan chocolates.
But what exactly is vegan chocolate? What distinguishes it from "normal" chocolate or other types of chocolate? And why would you want to consume it? If you're interested in vegan chocolate, keep reading! We'll tell you everything you need to know, from how it’s made, to the health benefits it offers.
What Exactly Is Vegan Chocolate?
Vegan chocolate is chocolate that hasn’t been in contact with any animal products such as dairy, eggs, or honey. It's also not made with any dairy products such as milk or cream. Additionally, many businesses use sugar substitutes such as brown sugar or Stevia, as some vegans take issue with how some refined sugars get processed.
What Is Non-Vegan Chocolate?
Chocolate is not vegan if it contains animal products such as dairy milk. This means that generally, white and traditional milk chocolate is not vegan, and neither is dark chocolate if it’s made with any dairy milk whatsoever. Vegans should also avoid natural chocolate flavors that are tested on animals.
As a rule, if you're vegan, it’s a good idea to always examine the ingredient list to determine if chocolate is actually vegan, even if it's not made with cow’s milk.
In recent years, a number of small-batch chocolate makers have created vegan milk chocolate with coconut milk, oat milk, and cashew milk as tasty alternatives. As they’re specifically created for vegans, these chocolates will contain no animal products nor have they been tested on animals.
Often, vegan chocolates are also labeled as such, and have a vegan stamp on them to make it clear that they cater to this requirement. However, as a vegan it’s always a good idea to double check, just in case!
Vegan Vs. Milk Chocolate: Which Tastes Better?
Vegans don’t have to sacrifice flavor when it comes to chocolate; the best vegan chocolate bars can taste almost identical to their dairy-rich counterparts.
Depending on how the chocolate is processed, vegan chocolate can be just as rich and creamy as non-vegan chocolate. Of course, which actually tastes better really is a matter of opinion, but you’ll often find that non-vegans buy vegan chocolate as they love the taste. Vegan chocolate is also great for cooking with.
Does Vegan Chocolate Have Healthier Ingredients Than Regular Chocolate?
Vegan chocolate is made with plant-based ingredients rather than dairy, eggs, or gelatin, so it has less fat, fewer calories, and no cholesterol. Great news if you’re watching your waistline!
Does Vegan Chocolate Have Any Health Benefits?
Although it’s a sweet treat, dark chocolate does have health benefits. So, let's look at the various vegan chocolate benefits you could reap if you ate a lot of these delectable treats.
Boost your nutrient intake
Vegan chocolate with a high cacao percentage is a source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron. Plus, this chocolate is chock-full of natural antioxidants. Cacao beans are a rich source of polyphenols, a plant-based chemical similar to the antioxidant resveratrolfound in wine, grapes, and peanuts that helps to combat aging and promote longevity.
Additionally, vegan chocolates also don’t contain any milk. Instead, they are high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, which are found in many vegetables, berries, and fruits.
Improves your mood
Vegan chocolates contain anandamide and cacao, which bind to receptors in your brain and make you feel happy when you eat them. This chocolate also contains components that increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is commonly referred to as the "happiness hormone" and it also gets a boost if you drink a cup of good quality coffee.
Aids in blood flow and heart health
Another reason to consume a lot of vegan chocolate is that it is high in antioxidants and flavonoids. This means that they not only help lower cholesterol but also improve blood flow. This prevents problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
These chocolates are also high in magnesium and copper. Magnesium promotes blood flow, and copper facilitates oxygen delivery to blood cells.
Helps in managing diabetes and blood sugar
Vegan chocolate is a good snack for people with diabetes because it’s rich in heart-healthy nutrients. Sugar is an important part of how our bodies make ATP, an energy molecule that helps cells and organs work, so diabetics should eat sugar-free vegan chocolates. It's also the best option for people trying to lose weight or who don't want to consume dairy.
One of the best things about vegan chocolate is that it helps keep your blood sugar stable and improves the function of your cells. It aids in blood sugar control and makes insulin use more efficient in your body. Furthermore, this chocolate aids in the prevention of problems such as high blood pressure and obesity, both of which are risk factors for diabetics.
The only disadvantage is that vegan chocolate is generally more expensive than regular chocolate, but the health benefits outweigh the cost.
Indulge Your Chocolate Craving
We hope that now that you're aware of the distinctions between non-vegan and vegan chocolate, you'll keep them in mind the next time you go shopping. Fortunately, when it comes to eating chocolate, there are many companies (like us) that offer premium chocolate. You can indulge your craving, boost your health, and do your bit for the environment too!
By Charli Tanner
Charli is a content champion for a variety of online publications. She often covers topics that cater to business owners or topics related to food & health. Her two passions: chocolate and cats.