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Reduced Guilt? Chocolate Gets A Healthy, Fruity Makeover

Chocoholics, rejoice!

British scientists have developed a new fruit-juice-infused chocolate that they say has up to 50 percent less fat than the regular stuff. And it's tasty, too.

The scientists, led by University of Warwick's Stefan Bon, created the hybrid chocolate using a blender to generate microscopic droplets of fruit juice fine enough to blend into molten chocolate.

Bon and his team presented their research on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

According to Bon, these "micro-bubbles" of juice preserve that oh-so-satisfying velvety texture of chocolate, while also replacing much of the fat content. "This approach maintains the things that make chocolate 'chocolatey,' but with fruit juice instead of fat," he explains.

Sneaking fruit juice into chocolate may not change the "mouth feel" of the much-beloved treat, but Bon admits that it does subtly affect the taste.

"Obviously, the blend of fruit juice and chocolate gives it a twist," he writes in an email to The Salt. However, since the juice is spread out in the chocolate, Bon says that the taste isn't overwhelming and instead gives the chocolate "a hint of juice flavor."

So far, Bon's team has made chocolate infused with apple, orange and cranberry juice. And if you don't like fruit in your chocolate, don't worry. The scientists say that it's also possible to use other fluids to lower chocolate's fat content — diet soda, vitamin C water, even alcohol (though that raises a whole new set of issues.)

For the boozy chocolate, the scientists had to develop a completely different infusion method. Instead of using a blender, they thickened up the chocolate using particles of agar gel, often used as a stabilizing agent in food.

"Using this alternative technique, we can not only introduce fruit juice and water, but also alcoholic beverages," writes Bon.

Although chocolate contains antioxidants, the potential health benefits of indulging in this treat can be negated by its high fat content if you overindulge. According to Bon, a two-ounce serving of dark chocolate can contain around 20 percent of your total daily recommended fat intake.

"We have established the chemistry that's a starting point for healthier chocolate," says Bon.

But don't run out to the candy store quite yet. Bon says that it's now up to the food industry to "take the next steps and use the technology to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars."

And while some chocolate purists may disagree, I, for one, see no problem sinking my teeth into a delicious bar of reduced-guilt chocolatey goodness.

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