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A mushroom extract is the new low-calorie sweetener substitute in this chocolaty treat.

Bar none, the darkest chocolate is the healthiest: The higher the percentage of cacao content, the better. That’s because the greater the amount of nutrient-rich cacao, the more health benefits and the less added sweetener. “When looking for dark chocolate, it should be at least 60 percent cacao in order to reap its nutritional benefits,” says Toby Amidor, registered dietitian and author of “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen” and the upcoming “The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.” Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian, nutritionist and creator of the “Better Than Dieting” blog, swears by bars with 72 percent or greater cacao content.

The bitter truth

But there’s a catch: Since cacao beans are naturally bitter, bars made with a lot of cacao and little sugar can taste harsh. At least, they have until now. Enter Colorado-based MycoTechnology, which discovered that Cordyceps mushrooms can dull the perception of bitterness. According to the company’s marketing manager Josh Hahn, “We taste bitterness when the bitter molecules in our foods bind with our bitter taste receptor sites.” To prevent this from happening, MycoTechnology adds a mushroom extract it produces—called ClearTaste—to dark chocolate bars; the extract binds with taste receptor sites before the bitter molecules from the chocolate can do so. “After only a few seconds, ClearTaste gets flushed away by saliva but hangs on long enough [to reduce the bitterness],” he says.

Low-sugar chocolate

Thanks to ClearTaste, the company can keep its bars at an impressive 92 percent cacao content and add only four grams of sugar. The bars, made only from Hispaniola cacao beans, cocoa butter, Mexican cane sugar and ClearTaste, still taste bitter, but feature berry and red wine notes and a melt-in-the-mouth texture. To balance out the bitterness and increase the sweetness, try melting the chocolate and then serving it with ripe peach or tangerine slices or pineapple cubes for dipping. While a five pack of bars currently costs $35.97 at shop.mycotechcorp.com, the company intends to drop the price as it tweaks the product.

Should you indulge?

While MycoTechnology bars are low in sugar, each 43-gram serving does have 170 calories and 13 grams of fat (eight of which are saturated). This may give you some pause. According to Taub-Dix, “Although saturated fat has been in the news recently as not being as bad as previously believed, that doesn’t necessarily make it good for us, so I’d go easy on the stuff.” Amidor concurs: “Dark chocolate is packed with good-for-you nutrients, but because it is dense in calories, it should be eaten in small amounts.” She recommends one ounce of dark chocolate no more than once a day.

Photo credit: leszekkobusinski, Adobe Stock