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Fruit juice for healthier chocolate? Sweet!

Nancy R. Cohen / Getty Images file

Fruit juice could soon become a new ingredient to make chocolate healthier, according to new research.

By Stephanie Pappas

Ah, the rich taste of chocolate: cocoa beans, sugar and … fruit juice?

Yes, fruit juice could be a new chocolate ingredient, according to research presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans. This isn't some gourmet fad like bacon chocolate — it's an attempt to make the sweet treat healthier.

Chemistry professor Stefan Bon of the University of Warwick and his colleagues say they've found a way to infuse chocolate with fruit juice, diet cola or vitamin C water to replace up to half the fat normally found in the confection.

Dark chocolate gets high marks for heart health: It's been linked to lower risk of heart attack and stroke. But it's still rather fatty, with a 2-ounce serving weighing in at up to 13 grams of fat. That's 20 percent of the daily fat intake recommended for someone on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.

Bon and his colleagues have been testing technology to cut the fat without losing chocolate's velvety mouth-feel. They say they've discovered a way to infuse chocolate with "micro-bubbles" of juice or other liquids. The micro-bubbles keep the melt-in-your-mouth texture of chocolate, Bon said in a statement.

"This approach maintains the things that make chocolate 'chocolatey,' but with fruit juice instead of fat," Bon said. "Now we're hoping the food industry will take the next steps and use the technology to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars and other candy."

The researchers have used apple, orange and cranberry juices to infuse dark, milk and white chocolate. Because the juice is diluted by chocolate, it doesn't overpower the chocolatey taste, Bon said.

"Fruit-juice-infused candy tastes like an exciting hybrid between traditional chocolate and chocolate-juice confectionary," he said. The researchers previously reported on the juicy chocolate in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

The move to add fruit juice may alarm chocolate purists, however. In 2007, a Food and Drug Administration proposal to allow the use of vegetable oil to replace cocoa butter in chocolate caused huge controversy. In 1999, a European Union agreement allowed vegetable-oil-based chocolate to be sold on the continent, but only under the label "family milk chocolate."

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