Chocolate, the food of the Gods, has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world. Various foodstuffs involving chocolate are being created and relished by people all over the world.
Chocolate has been enjoyed as a drink in all of its history. The Mayans were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. The Aztecs considered chocolate a luxury and the cacao beans was used as currency. The Aztecs paid 100 cacao beans for one turkey and three beans for one fresh avocado. Interesting isn’t?
The European adaptation of chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market. The modern era of chocolate was born when Coenraad van Houten created a press which made chocolate cheaper and consistent in quality.
With a grand heritage chocolate continues its march without any competitor into a glorious future.
Types Of Chocolate
Chocolate is classified according to the proportion of cocoa used in a particular formulation. The different forms of chocolate are produced by varying the amounts of different ingredients. The different flavors are obtained by varying the time and temperature by roasting the beans.
- Raw chocolate is often promoted as healthy (Raw cacao such as LuLu's Chocolate)
- Organic chocolate is chocolate certified as organic.
- Unsweetened chocolate is otherwise known as baking, bitter or cooking chocolate.
- Dark chocolate is also called as black chocolate or plain chocolate. It is produced by adding fat and sugar to cocoa.
- Semisweet chocolate is dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa.
- Bittersweet chocolate has more liquor and less sugar than semisweet chocolate.
- Couverture is chocolate rich in cocoa butter. These chocolates contain a high percentage of cocoa.
- Milk chocolate is solid chocolate made with milk. Hershey process milk chocolate is popular in the US.
- White chocolate is made with milk, sugar and cocoa butter without the cocoa solids.
- Cocoa powder- there are two types of cocoa powder the natural cocoa and the Dutch process cocoa. Natural cocoa is light in color and is somewhat acidic with a strong chocolate flavor. The Dutch process cocoa is slightly milder in taste with warmer and deeper color than natural cocoa.
- Modeling chocolate is used by upscale cake makers to add decoration to cake and pastries.
Given the many versions of chocolate in the market, you will be pretty confused as to choose which one is the healthiest of all.
Flavonoids are phytochemicals with the capacity to maintain cardiovascular health. Antioxidants are important for healthy cells and strong immune systems. Milk chocolate contains at least 12% whole milk and therefore has greater fat content than dark chocolate. It has got 2-4 times fewer antioxidants and flavonoids when compared to dark chocolate.
How to make dark chocolate at home?
You can easily prepare dark chocolate at home. Just follow the instructions below, and taste delicious bars of dark chocolate. This recipe is an ode to your good health.
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- Four tablespoons honey
- ½ a cup coconut oil
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 3-6 drops liquid stevia (optional)
- Melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Pour the honey and stir until dissolved.
- Whisk in the cocoa powder.
- A gloss form appears, at this stage remove from heat and whisk until smooth.
- Add vanilla and mix well.
- Add few drops of liquid stevia to reach the desired level of sweetness.
- You can pour the mixture into candy molds and refrigerate.
The health benefits of eating dark chocolate have been extolled for centuries. The mystery has been explained now by science. Researchers say that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.
According to the scientists, the good microbes such as lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacterium feast on chocolate. They grow, ferment and produce anti-inflammatory compounds. The body absorbs these compounds which reduce the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue and the risk of stroke.
Dark chocolates contain antioxidants such as catechin and epicatechin. These large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized into smaller molecules by the bacteria in the colon. The fermented molecules exhibit anti-inflammatory properties.
The researchers noted that combining the fiber with probiotics improves a person’s overall health. This combination enhances the conversion of polyphenolics in the stomach into anti-inflammatory compounds.
Scientists say you can enjoy dark chocolate benefits if you eat it along with pomegranates and acai.
Reasons why you should eat more chocolate
1. Chocolate Boosts Brain Power
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University of Nottingham scientists has found that eating chocolate could sharpen up the mind. The sweet treats give a short-term boost to cognitive skills.
Consumption of a cocoa drink which is rich in flavanols, the main ingredient of dark chocolate boosts blood flow to the key areas of the brain for 2 to 3 hours. The increased blood flow peps up the performance in certain tasks. It also boosts general alertness for a short period.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to detect increased activity in specific areas of the brain in individuals, who had consumed a single drink of flavanol-rich cocoa.
Scientists say that flavanols in chocolate could be useful in enhancing the brain function of people fighting sleep deprivation, fatigue and even the effects of aging.
Harvard researchers have found that a daily dose of sweet treat especially chocolate protects against Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Chocolates For Your Heart
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Relishing up to 100 grams of chocolate on a daily basis lowers heart disease and stroke risk. How good is that?
According to a research study published online in the Journal Heart, researchers say higher chocolate consumption was associated with lower weight and younger age, waist: hip ratio, inflammatory proteins, systolic blood pressure, diabetes and more regular physical activity.
The researchers say milk chocolate other than flavonols also contain calcium and fatty acids, and this could play a beneficial role in the heart health.
A team of researchers from Melbourne, Australia used a mathematical model for predicting long-term effect of daily dark chocolate consumption. They say that daily consumption of dark chocolate can reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes in people with metabolic syndrome.
The blood pressure and cholesterol lowering effects of plain dark chocolate greatly improve cardiovascular health. Eating dark chocolate lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol according to a meta-analysis published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
The high cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate is effective at increasing HDL (good cholesterol) in patients with Type 2 diabetes. The flavonoids found in chocolate has been found to lower LDL cholesterol levels. It exerts a protective effect against coronary heart disease.
One-third of fat found in chocolate is stearic acid. Though it is a saturated fat, it exerts a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. It neither raises nor reduces the cholesterol levels.
Dark chocolate contains some powerful antioxidants that enter the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.
3. Boosts Athletic Performance
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Dark chocolate could give sports persons an extra edge in their workouts. Dark chocolate contains a substance called epicatechin, a flavanol found in the cacao bean. It increases nitric oxide production in the body.
Epicatechin prompts the cells that line the blood vessels to release extra nitric oxide. This substance has multiple effects in the body. Nitric oxide widens the veins and arteries and thus improves blood flow and cardiac function. It gooses the cells to take in more blood sugar, provides them with more energy and enhances the passage of oxygen into the cells.
Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption. This action allows the athletes to go further for longer. Cyclists were given 40g of dark chocolate as a snack before their exercise. The control group was given 40g of white chocolate.
The scientists found that after eating dark chocolate, cyclists used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate speed. They covered more distance in a two minute flat out of time trial.
4. Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure
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The link between blood pressure and cocoa consumption was found by researchers in 1944 when they were looking at blood pressure levels of Kuna Indians, a tribe living off the coast of Panama. These people drank 3-4 cups of cacao a day.
Scientists say small amounts of dark chocolate can efficiently reduce blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the endothelium, the lining of the arteries to produce the gas nitric oxide.
The nitric oxide sends signals to the arteries to relax. The resistance to blood flow is lowered therefore the blood pressure is reduced.
5. Best Superfood For Weight Loss
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Good quality dark chocolate provides a portion of the same healthy benefits of most leafy green vegetables. The flavonoids in dark chocolate help reduce insulin resistance and prevents spikes in blood sugar levels which prevent you from overeating.
Dark chocolate has an impressive impact on how the body synergizes fatty acids. Thus, it reduces the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, increasing the feeling of fullness, according to a study performed at Queen Margaret University. Choose a dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao.
Insulin, ghrelin, and leptin are the three hormones that control appetite. Insulin controls the transfer of blood sugar, and Ghrelin increases your appetite. A Netherlands research study showed dark chocolate decreased insulin resistance and lowered the levels of ghrelin. In this way, dark chocolate controls the appetite.
The polyphenols in dark chocolate enhance your sense of well-being. The anti-inflammatory compounds in chocolate along with the generous supply of magnesium encourage you to exercise.
6. Chocolate Reduces Stress
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Dark chocolate may lower the levels of stress hormones. Researchers found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate on a daily basis for two weeks reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also decreased the fight or flight hormones known as catecholamines in people who are highly stressed.
The study results showed that eating dark chocolate daily reduced stress hormone levels in high-anxiety individuals. Researchers say that dark chocolate improved metabolism and had beneficial effects on the microbial activity in the gut.
A research study examined 31men consuming dark chocolate and 34 men consuming a placebo chocolate under stressful conditions. Those men consuming dark chocolate had lower levels of epinephrine and cortisol after the stress. Although their brain response to stress was similar to the control group, the body’s response to brain signals was blunted. This aspect greatly improves the heart health.
7. Chocolate Boosts Fertility
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Chocolate contains flavonoids and arginine which elevates your mood and promotes blood flow to the uterus, specifically to the ovaries. Science says that the mere smell of chocolates can increase the brain’s theta waves. These waves help you to relax. Relaxing helps you to get through the stresses of infertility.
Dark chocolate contains high amounts of resveratrol which is good for the egg quality. It contains magnesium which alleviates menstrual symptoms including cramps, water retention, depression, fatigue, and irritability.
Dark chocolate boosts the sperm health. It contains nutrients such as phenylethylamine and theobromine which enhances fertility.
Finnish researchers report that chocolate reduced stress in pregnant mothers. Their babies smiled more often than non- chocolate eating parents.
8. Chocolates Good For Visual Performance
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Researchers in England conducted a study, where half the participants ate dark chocolate, and the other half white chocolate. Those who received dark chocolate performed better in vision tests- better than before the tests and other participants who ate white chocolate.
Cocoa improved the detection of motion and the reading of low contrast letters. Researchers say increased blood flow to retina and brain explains this. Dark chocolate contains high concentrations of flavonoids. These flavonoids can greatly enhance the blood flow to the brain and the retina of the eye.
Dark chocolate is rich in copper, and it prevents damage to the optic nerves. Along with the carrots eat chocolates for healthy eyes.
Lots of chocolate on the market is crap. You need to choose organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Remember the darker the chocolate, the lower the sugar content. You can enjoy a square or two after dinner and savor them.
Now that you know that chocolates have health benefits, you should keep in mind that you should still eat it in moderation. Anything excessive can have side effects, though that has not been proven about dark chocolates.