I like to cook and eat natural, healthy, and tasty foods, and I enjoy sharing recipes from my native Indian cuisine.
What Is Chocolate? How Is it made?
Everyone likes chocolate. There are chocoholics who can't live without chocolates. Then, what is a chocolate? Here is the answer. It is a food in the form of a paste, liquid, or a solid block made from roasted cocoa seeds. It is normally smooth, sweet, and eaten as confectionery. People sometimes cover other sweet dishes with chocolate for extra taste and flavor.
As told earlier, the chocolate we eat is produced from cocoa beans. After harvesting, the beans are dried in the sun and ground to make a paste. This paste goes under pressure to form two ingredients known as chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. We get different types of chocolates made by blending the liquor and the butter in varying proportions.
Dark chocolate is made with at least 70% cacao liquor and butter, which is considered as the finest chocolate that imparts highest health benefits when eaten regularly in moderation.
Another category is milk chocolate that is made with only 50% chocolate liquor or butter.
White chocolate is made only from cocoa butter.
Why Do We Like Chocolate So Much? Some Information on Chocolates
- Frankly speaking, we love chocolate primarily due to its' awesome taste and soft, creamy texture that makes it slowly melts in the mouth.
- Chocolate stimulates the release of endorphin and serotonin that makes us feel good. Studies have shown that people with chocolate cravings have different bacteria in their digestive tract when compared with other people. People eat chocolate to relieve stress and depression.
- Chocolate also has stimulants like caffeine and theobromine in small quantity, as told by a registered dietitian Christine Palumbi of Naperville. These stimulants keep us alert and contended.
- The smooth and creamy texture of the chocolate contributes to the pleasure of eating it.
- All chocolates are not equally healthy. The chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa has flavonols, which act as antioxidants that delay or prevent the damage to body cells and tissues. Flavonols are not found in white chocolates, which are not made from the cocoa bean.
- Dietitians agree the fact that consumption of chocolate is beneficial for health. However, they give a caution that it is often high in fat and sugar. They recommend the moderate use of chocolate in daily life.
Varieties of Chocolate Products
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
It is a well-known fact that Dark chocolate imparts the best health benefits. Let us now find out the top benefits of eating dark chocolates.
Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that act positively on your health. It is made from cocoa beans which are an excellent source of antioxidants.
Studies have shown that dark chocolate which has more than or equal to 70% of the cocoa in it, can improve your health and may lower the risk of heart diseases.
1. Dark chocolate has the higher amount of soluble fiber and minerals:
Dark chocolate is a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It also contains plenty of potassium, zinc, phosphorous, and selenium.
However, eat a moderate quantity of chocolates as they also contain sugar along with the nutrients. Moreover, they are loaded with calories which should be taken into consideration while eating.
The fats in dark chocolate are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with a tiny amount of polyunsaturates. Thus, it is not so harmful to health.
2. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants:
Researchers allowed a group of free radicals(bad) to act against a sample food and saw how well the antioxidants in the food can disarm the free radicals.
As this test is carried out in a test tube, the exact relevance of the reaction on the human body is questioned. Still, it is worth mentioning here that raw, unprocessed cocoa stood among the highest in the list of the foods that have been tested.
Dark chocolate has compounds like polyphenols, flavonols, and catechins that are biologically active and act as antioxidants.
A study has shown that cocoa and dark chocolate has more antioxidants than blueberries and Acai berries.
3. Dark chocolate raises HDL and lowers LDL cholesterol:
Consuming dark chocolate in moderation helps to prevent heart-related risk factors. Studies have shown that it helps in the increase of HDL(good) cholesterol and lowers LDL(bad) cholesterol level. The abundant antioxidants found in dark chocolate go into the blood stream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.
It is believed that dark chocolate aids in reducing the insulin resistance which is another potential risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
4. Dark chocolate may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases:
As noted earlier, the compounds in dark chocolate may act highly protective against the oxidation of LDL. If this continues for a longer period, this will in turn help in lowering the level of cholesterol deposition in the arteries. This way, reducing the risk of heart disease in the long term.
An observational study showed that eating dark chocolate more than five times a week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%.
5. Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure:
The flavonols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the inner lining of arteries to produce Nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide has the function of sending signals to the arteries to relax, which allows the blood flow normally without any resistance. This way, it helps in reducing the blood pressure. However, this may be a mild effect on the blood flow.
6. Dark chocolates are good for your skin:
The bioactive compound flavonols can protect your skin against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow in the skin, and help in increasing the skin density and hydration.
If you have a plan to go for a beach vacation, do eat dark chocolates in prior months and weeks for lowering the skin damage that may happen due to sun exposure.
7. Dark chocolate may improve brain function:
The benefits of eating dark chocolate have one more addition to the list. Cocoa may improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It also improves verbal fluency.
Cocoa contains a small amount of caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants that may improve brain function instantly.
Reference: www.authoritynutrition.com and other reliable sources.
It is evident that dark chocolate provides potential health benefits, especially for cardiovascular health.
However, it does not mean that you can eat plenty of chocolates. Though it has powerful nutrients that are good for health, it also has sugar and loaded calories that are not good for you if you over eat. One or two small squares a day can be savored after dinner.
Be diligent while picking the chocolate in the market. Most of them are crap. You need to choose good quality organic dark chocolates which contain 70% or above cocoa content. Darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains.
Enjoy eating dark chocolate once in a while for good health and for heavenly taste!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
ShailaSheshadri (author) from Bengaluru on June 02, 2017:
Wow. Very kind of you. It is really good that you have been liking dark chocolate. They are good for health if taken in small bite. Choose dark chocolate with very less salt.
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on June 02, 2017:
I've loved dark chocolate since childhood. I rarely eat milk chocolate. And this was long before studies were to show the health benefits of chocolate.
Your article is informative with delicious photos. My mouth is watering. :)
Thanks so much.