There are few foods that evoke as much passion as this decadent treat. Folklore from many cultures claimed that consuming chocolate instilled faith, health, strength, and sexual passion. Once an indulgence of royalty, it is now a treasured and accessible – and yes, even healthy – treat. So where did our obsession with chocolate begin? Where Does Chocolate Come From?
The cacao tree produces melon-sized pods full of beans. The pod is split and the beans removed and fermented until they turn the characteristic deep brown color. Dried beans are then roasted and processed by grinding and heating. The powdered fraction is the water soluble cocoa powder. The bean fat is separated as cocoa butter. Chocolate enthusiasts often admit they are addicts and find it difficult to resist cravings and binge with unpleasant consequences. Post chocolate symptoms include anxiety, angry outbursts, migraine headaches, abdominal pain, joint pain, mental agitation and depression. Chocolate addiction is more socially acceptable than it is healthy. Some chocolate eaters become quite ill and quite obese.
Chocolate Health Benefits:
Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body. A small bar of it every day can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure as well as reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.
Chocolate also holds benefits apart from protecting your heart:
- tastes good - stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure - contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant - contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants
What To Think About When You Think Chocolate?
Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. You should look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel or other flavorings. Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings. These fillings are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate. Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. These other two chocolates cannot make any health claims. Dark chocolate has 65 percent or higher cocoa content. Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it.
It's worth noting that the number of calories and fat grams per serving of dark chocolate is much higher than that of fruit juices, which means it's a potential super food to be enjoyed BUT WITH MODERATION.