Chocolate is a known most ultimate comfort food, it is the best stand-by in times of stress and also work as a mood-enhancer and romance-inducer in more positive circumstances. But is it healthy at all?
Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain and obesity, a number of health benefits are associated with eating chocolate on regular basis. So the next time you eat chocolate, you might not feel very guilty about it.
Made from the tropical theobroma cacao tree seeds, chocolate’s use dates back to the Olmec Civilization in the Mesoamerica.
After the European discovered the America, chocolate became a widely popular treat and its demand increased overall.
Some Fast Facts about Chocolate:
- It has been a while now since chocolate has been associated with health conditions such as: diabetes, coronary heart diseases, and hypertension.
- High levels of antioxidants are believed to be found in chocolates.
- Studies show that chocolate is effective in lowering the blood cholesterol levels and preventing memory decline.
Chocolate has been receiving a ton of negative publicity and bad press because of its high fat and sugar contents. Its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.
However, in a review of chocolate and health effects the Netherlands Journal of Medicine quoted that it is not at all a bad news.
The authors have pointed to the discovery that cacao, the key ingredient in chocolate, contains biologically active compounds that are beneficial for a various health aspects.
This revelation has changed people’s views on chocolate, and they have actually stimulated research into how it might impact aging, and conditions such as oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and memory decline.
Chocolate may have a range of health benefits depending on the content of cacao in the bar. The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more beneficial the chocolate is.
Chocolate has reportedly been said to have following main benefits:
- Prevention from Cholesterol
It is reported by the authors that regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health which can be done by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.
- Prevention from Cognitive Decline
Lead author, Farzaneh A. Sorond, said:
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
- Reduction in Cardiovascular Risks
Based on the researches, the authors concluded that higher levels of chocolate consumption could be linked to a lower risk of cardio metabolic disorders.
Although they called for further experimental studies to confirm whether consuming chocolate is beneficial.
Producers of milk chocolate claim that their product is healthier because it contains milk which provides calcium and protein. While on the other hand manufacturers of dark chocolate find their product better because of higher contents of iron and antioxidants.
So we have a chart here which actually shows which one of the chocolate product contains what and how much.
As much as dark the chocolate will be, the concentration of cocoa will be higher, and so, in theory, the level of antioxidants in the bar will be higher.
The nutrients vary widely in commercially available chocolate bars, depending on the brand and type we choose. It is best to check the label if we want to be sure about the nutrients.
Risks and Precautions:
Along with the benefits eating chocolate may have some side effects too:
- Weight Gain
- Sugar Content
- Bone Health
- Heavy Metals
Last but not least, eating chocolate can have both health benefits and risks. As ever, moderation is key.
Did you know how hard it is to make chocolates?
Cacao is mostly grown on small family farms. Harvesting cacao is a very labor-intensive job because each and every pod needs to be handpicked in order to avoid disturbing the other not so ready pods. This is usually done by families themselves or the neighbors help each other out since the span is very short.
The pods are then taken to the processing house where they are split open with hand and the seeds are removed. The seeds then go through a two-stepped curing process before they are shipped out to the chocolate manufacturers.
After Fermentation (the process of developing the chocolate flavor) and Drying (the process of reducing the moisture content), the beans are then shipped out to the factories where chocolate bars are made.
After reaching the factory the beans are then inspected. If there is any bad beans, small rock or other debris present, are removed.
The dried cocoa beans are then roasted. This process enhances the flavor and color of the cacao bean. After that the outer skin of the cacao bean is removed by winnowing in which the beans are broken into small pieces called “Cocoa Nibs”.
Then comes the grinding of the cacao nib. The Nibs are grounded until they become a smooth chocolate liquid. This liquid is often called “Cocoa Liquor” or the “Cacao Mass” which is a combination of unsweetened cocoa and cocoa butter.
At this situation, the manufacturer separates the two product from each other and recombines them as they blend them with sugar and other items by which the manufacturer uses to make chocolate formula (each manufacturer has their own secret recipe formula).
After blending, the cocoa mass is allowed to cool and harden into different shapes depending on the mold of the manufacturer.
Next the packaging is done and distributed to stores or chocolatiers to make chocolate candies.
It all starts with the Cacao Tree!
Cacao trees cannot be grown all over the world but only on the belts of the Equator. Precisely, it grows only 20 degrees south and 20 degrees north of the Equator. Cacao trees are grown and cocoa is produced in the following areas varying by year and the quality of cocoa: South America, Central
America, West Africa, Caribbean, and the South Pacific.
So the question is whether one type of chocolate better than the other?
Not really. It just depends on your own taste preference. All of the chocolate is ethically sourced and grown usually on small family farms.
Most of the cacao is grown and harvested all around the year to ensure that each cacao pod is allowed to reach optimal ripeness before being picked.
The pods are then opened up by the farmers to take out the beans covered in a white and very sweet pulp.
When the beans are picked out they are then aged covered with banana leaves for a span of three to five days. Precise aging is significant in building up the flavor attributes of every chocolate.
After drying the beans are then sacked and ready to be shipped. When the beans arrive at the factory they need to be carefully sifted through and checked to get rid of any bad beans or debris before they
are sent out for the chocolate to be prepared.
Chocolate Comes from Cacao which is a Tree. This Makes Chocolate a
Plant. Chocolate is a Salad_Anonymous