What is chocolate and can we talk about chocolate benefits?
Some of you might say ”It is happiness.” or “It is gold.” Well , even if we all agree about chocolate being “happiness in a tinfoil” we also have to know if it is good to consume so much happiness.
Chocolate is a processed and sweetened food made from the seed of cocoa tree.
Did You Know That…
1. “Theobroma cacao” (cocoa tree) means “food of the gods” in Aztec language?
2. It takes 400 cocoa beans to make one pound (500 g approx.) of chocolate?
3. Most cocoa hails from West Africa?
4. Cocoa trees are very delicate ? (they can easily snap when windy weather)
5. Each cocoa tree produces approximately 2.500 beans?
6. The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature ?
7. Europeans know about cocoa and chocolate only since 16th century while Aztecs used it for thousands of years?
8. Chocolate was exclusively for drinking and for the rich people when brought in Europe ?
9. The average serving of milk chocolate has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee?
Cocoa has been cultivated for three millennia in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. The Aztecs were making and drinking a beverage known as “bitter water” (the seeds of the cocoa tree have an intense bitter taste). The flavor is also developed during the process of fermentation. The drink was chocolate and it was only for drinking. They didn’t have the technique of making solid chocolate. It was discovered only in the late Victorian times.
Most of the chocolate consumed today comes in the form of sweet chocolate(combines cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat and sugar), white chocolate (cocoa butter, sugar, milk and no cocoa solids) and milk chocolate (cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, condensed milk or milk powder).
The ingredients and chocolate benefits over the body
Substances contained in cocoa solids are alkaloids as theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine. These have physiological effects on the body and are linked to serotonin levels in the brain (gives the sense of happiness).
Eaten in moderation, chocolate can lower blood pressure, may support cardiovascular health and under research it was also shown that other effects include reducing risks of cancer, coughing , heart disease. and may also help in improving vascular function and metabolism’s energy. Migraines? We can forget about their symptoms if we consume chocolate.
Cocoa and dark chocolate have antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are found in huge number in dark chocolate. Free radicals found in our body are responsible for the aging process and may be responsible for cancer . The antioxidants are those who fight against them an can prevent serious disease. Dark chocolate is also known for increasing blood flow to the brain and heart and because of this it is linked to the improvement of the cognitive function too . Several chemicals contained in dark chocolate affect positively your mood (phenylethylamine – PEA same chemical created by brain when you feel like falling in love), PEA stimulating the release of endorphins which makes a person feel happier. Dark chocolate helps control blood sugar – keeps blood vessels healthy and circulation unimpaired to protect against type 2 diabetes. The flavonoids help reduce insulin resistance helping cells to function normally. Because dark chocolate has a low glycemic index it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
Theobromine is known to harden tooth enamel and this substance makes chocolate the one sweet that protects against the risk of getting cavities if is practiced a proper dental hygiene.
Other substances found in dark chocolate are the vitamins. High levels of potassium , copper , magnesium and iron help prevent against stroke, cardiovascular ailments, anemia, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
As you could see we mostly talked about dark chocolate. This is because sweet chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate milk contain additives like milk , sugar, condensed milk, milk powder which disable the cocoa’ s abilities and instead of helping your body improve they destroy it when consumed in high quantities, besides adding calories which attack the cholesterol levels.
Cooking with chocolate
In cuisine , chocolate usage is vast. From roasted beef with chocolate sauce to fruits coated in chocolate. It is mostly used as an aphrodisiac, chocolate desserts being the most consumed at romantic dinners.
The most used technique to melt chocolate is bain-marie. You put a pot with water to boil and the chocolate goes over the hot steam in a bowl and becomes liquid as you stir it with a spoon.
Salt is one ingredient you don’t want to forget when cooking with chocolate . Salt is the one that enhances the flavor, balances bitterness and makes the taste less flat.
Chocolate cakes, chocolate sauce with pork or duck , steak with chocolate chili sauce, chocolate chips cookies, cupcakes with chocolate frosting, rice with chocolate pudding, these are all foods that can make any person, male or female, forget about their diet . But , as long as these happen now and then, there are no worries.
Chocolate can help your body keep it’s health only consumed in moderate portions and in addition to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eat healthy, consume “happiness in a tinfoil” and see how your body keeps or regains its strength.