Of all the sweet treats and delicacies available, chocolate is one of the craved foods in the world. There’s no doubt if chocolate is called— “the food of the Gods” as throughout the history, it has remained a symbol of luxury, wealth, and power.
In the 14th century, the Aztecs and Mayans used to do the trade using cacao beans as currency. The Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs generally reserved cacao for the ruling class and valued cacao for its mood enhancing and aphrodisiac properties.
During the 17th century, cocoa and chocolate were considered for medicinal purpose. The historical documents in Europe revealed that cocoa was used to treat ailments like angina and heat pain and other related diseases.
There was production of chocolate in Pre-Olmec cultures in Mexico as early as 1900 B.C. Originally, it was consumed as a bitter beverage.
The first solid chocolate bar was introduced by the British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons in 1847. It was prepared from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar.
To get the right information, it may be helpful for you to understand the difference between cacao, cocoa, and cocoa butter.
Cacao: The plant-a small evergreen tree belongs to the Theobroma cacao species. Prior to processing, its dried seeds, also known as cacao beans or cocoa beans.
Cocoa: The roasted cacao seeds ground into a powder from which most of the the fat that is the Cocoa butter has been removed.
Cocoa butter: The fat component of the cacao seed.
Chocolate: The solid food made from a preparation of roasted cacao seeds; you’ll get “raw chocolate”, if the roasting of cacao seeds is not done.
The Theory Of Chocolate – Not All Chocolate Made is Equal
Raw cacao contains nearly 400 polyphenols that make it quite bitter, not sweet. When it comes to health benefits of chocolate, this is the chocolate we are actually talking about. When you are confused in selecting chocolate(healthier than palatable), look for higher cacao percent and lower sugar content. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content and the healthier it is. Most chocolate is sweetened, to counteract the bitterness present in it. For health benefits, select the one with a high cacao percentage that is about 70 or higher.
“Dark chocolate”– Semi-sweet chocolate and Bittersweet chocolate come under Dark Chocolate category. Semisweet chocolate typically has a strong but not intense flavor of cocoa beans, unlike in bittersweet chocolate. It contains less than 35% of pure cocoa.
Moving on to bittersweet chocolate-extra dark chocolate is often considered the same as bittersweet. The composition of pure cocoa in bittersweet chocolate is no less than 35 percent. However, the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary from variety to variety.
“Milk chocolate”-It contains at least 10% pure chocolate with 12% milk solids and 3.39% milk fat. Proteins present in milk reduce the absorption of the antioxidants from cocoa. Milk actually binds the flavonoids in chocolate to itself, making them unavailable to our bodies. This is the reason that milk chocolate is considered a good antioxidant source.
“White chocolate” -It appears to be even worse, due to the high composition of milk and no cocoa at all in found in white chocolate. White chocolate is not a real chocolate at all because it contains only cocoa butter not cocoa solids rich in antioxidants and flavonoids.
It is recommended to eat only small amounts of minimally processed dark chocolate with a 70 percent cocoa content or higher. This type of chocolate is the most healthiest as compared to other chocolate considering its health benefits. This healthy dark chocolate has the most powerful antioxidants and minimal amount of sugar.
So, lets begin this journey by understanding the top 10 health benefits of dark chocolate, making it even more healthy-
In a study, the total flavonol content, polyphenol content and antioxidant activity content of dark chocolate were examined and compared to superfruits like acai, cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate. The dark chocolate in the study contained natural and non-alkalised cocoa as initialisation of cocoa destroys the healthy polyphenolic compounds.
A significantly greater flavanol content of cocoa powder was found as compared to other super fruit.
It was also revealed the polyphenol content was also higher for dark chocolate than all other super fruits except pomegranate.
The antioxidant capacity of dark chocolate was also higher than all of the super fruit juices except pomegranate.
2. Reduces Stress
When times get tough, people tend to have chocolate more often than they might otherwise, when they are going to through some emotional phase. Well, its not a bad idea to dip in to the chocolate stash as it could actually give you relief from havoc stress.
It is found that the stress hormone levels of very anxious people were significantly reduced, when they had an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks.
Dark chocolate consumption has the potential to fight the cells that cause cancer. It actually has the ability to ward off cancer and is a cancer fighting food in real.
4. Reduces Cholesterol
5. Dark chocolate can help in pregnancy
Recent studies shows that consumption of dark chocolate improves fetal growth.
Some mothers are at risk for preeclampsia, a condition in which the blood supply to the fetus is cut off or restricted. This condition occurs due to high blood pressure, which is natural during pregnancy.
So, regular chocolate consumption can reduce the risk of preeclampsia by lowering blood pressure. Those who consumed high-flavonol chocolate showed a significant improvement in blood flow of the fetus, according to the study.
6. Protect your skin from the sun
Dark chocolate prevents your skin damaging from ultraviolet rays, the harmful light emitted by the sun.
The most effective way to get all the benefits for skin protection is to directly eat cocoa beans. You can get the Cocoa beans from any health food stores. If you cannot have a raw cocoa than you have its replacement, the high-quality dark chocolate. The presence of flavonols in 85% dark chocolate still be effective to protect your skin from UV rays.
MED-minimal erythema dose, a measure that shows how much exposure to sun will start negatively affecting your skin. A high MED is good it means that your skin needs to get more sun exposure to take damage.
In a recent study, when perfomed on individuals the level of MED rose gradually, whey they begin to take cocoa rich in flavonols for a few weeks everyday. There was no change in MED level of those who consumed chocolate with less flavonol composition.
7. Diarrhoea Relief
The history of treating diarrhoea with cocoa is found in both South American and European cultures that dates back to the 16th century. So not just the present research and studies but also the history provides the traces of diarrhoea treatment with cocoa.
Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found Cocoa has the ability to cure diarrhoea. Flavonoids present in cocoa bind to a protein that regulates secretion of fluids in the small intestine, potentially stopping the trots.
8. Diabetes Prevention
A great drop in the potential for insulin resistance was found when individuals ate a dark chocolate bar once a day for 15 days. The Flavonoids present in the dark chocolate increase the nitric oxide production and that helps control insulin sensitivity.
9. Dark Chocolate Beneficial For Brain
10. Good For The Heart And Circulation – Reduces Risk Of Stroke
A recent study shows that dark chocolate helps prevent causes of artery clogging, restoring flexibility to arteries & preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.
It is said that dark chocolate consumption lowers the risk of stroke, by a staggering 17 per cent average in the group of men-when performed test by Researchers in Finland.