Sweet-toothed scientists from North Carolina State University have been channelling their inner Willy Wonka and creating healthy candy just in time for Halloween. Using compounds extracted from peanut skins, they were able to manufacture milk chocolate with the health benefits of dark chocolate, which should come as sweet news to anyone who can’t stomach the bitter taste of cacao.
Dark chocolate contains compounds called phenols that act as antioxidants, protecting cells from damage while at the same time enabling blood vessels to dilate in order to reduce blood pressure. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, tends to contain a much lower concentration of phenols, but is much more popular than its noir counterpart because of its sweeter taste.
However, consumers may soon be able to have their cake and eat it after researchers found a way to increase the phenol content of milk chocolate without altering its taste. To do so, they extracted phenols from peanut skins and encapsulated them in an edible carbohydrate called maltodextrin in order to produce a bioactive powder with a high concentration of antioxidants.
Describing their work in the Journal of Food Science, the study authors explain that milk chocolate bars containing just 0.9 percent phenol-infused maltodextrin powder had greater antioxidant properties than dark chocolate bars. These healthy chocolates were then put to the all-important taste test, passing with flying colors as a group of 80 consumers were unable to detect any increase in bitterness.
Apart from combining the health properties of dark chocolate with the popular taste of milk chocolate, this technique could also help the confectionary industry reduce its wastage, as peanut skins are typically thrown away during the production of candy bars and other products containing peanuts. Using them as a source of phenols for chocolate may therefore finally give these much maligned skins a place and a purpose within the candy business.