Health & Lifestyle: Are Chocolates Bad? Not At All! #AD

Thursday 21 October 2021

When you think of it, it is almost impossible to know that an ovoid, long and yellow to red-coloured fruit that has pulp-covered seeds, can be turned into the yummy treat that we now know. This aromatic product which can be in the forms of liquid, bars, paste, or powders, are widely used in confectionery and can also be used in cooking.

Before it became chocolate, it all started from the tree called Theobroma cacao which literally translates to "food of the gods" in Greek. The fruit referred to as cacao pods are harvested when ripe, where you can get sour beans covered in a white pulp. These trees are native in South America spread across southeastern Mexico to the Amazon River. When the popularity of chocolates surged, plantations in West Africa, South and Southeast Asia were established. At present, countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Brazil account for most cocoa production in the world.

But how does it become chocolate, you ask? The process of turning these white seeds into the brown coloured treat that we know nowadays takes time. The seeds are typically taken out of the pods first and placed on fermentation trays before it gets covered and left for two to seven days. This process is an important step because it gives the chocolate its aroma and flavour. After the fermentation, the seeds are then dried under the sun for another three to five days. Many manufacturers use rotary driers for faster drying, but it is said that drying naturally under the sun gives the best tasting product. Afterwards, the beans are cleaned and roasted until all the remaining components are the nibs. These cacao nibs are then turned into thick paste consistency called chocolate liquors.

Chocolates are undeniably one of the best treats there is, and we are lucky to be living in these times where this simple fruit can be turned into the sweet treat that we know. At the same time, there is more to it than just being a plain bar of sweets. Chocolates can also provide health benefits when consumed moderately.

Health Benefits of Chocolates:

Chocolates have been coined as an unhealthy treat, creating a bad reputation for it. This is due to its high sugar and high-fat content that has been associated with health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, acne, heart disease and high blood pressure. But unbeknownst to many, moderate consumption of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can actually provide health benefits. Here are some:

  • Contains fibre and minerals. A bar of chocolate with a high cocoa content of 70–85% can be a good source of a decent amount of fibre and minerals that can benefit our body. It contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and small traces of caffeine and theobromine.
  • Good source of antioxidants. Chocolates, especially the dark kind, contain compounds, such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins that are active antioxidants that are believed to aid in fighting free radicals in the body.
  • Helps improve blood flow. The flavanols in dark chocolate are known to stimulate the lining of arteries, making them relax, which influences the blood flow reducing the blood pressure.
  • Increases HDL (good cholesterol). Aside from the ability of dark chocolates to decrease insulin resistance which is often associated with diabetes and heart disease, cocoa powder is found to be helpful in increasing the HDL or the good cholesterol while preventing the oxidation of LDL, the bad cholesterol.
  • Reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Due to chocolate's ability to help improve blood flow and reduce the bad cholesterol in the body, it is said that it has the potential to help lower the risk of developing heart disease.
  • Protects the skin. Skin benefits like protection against sun damage, increased skin density and hydration are associated with flavanols which can be found in chocolates.
  • Improves brain function. Since it contains stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, cocoa and dark chocolates can help improve the brain's function in a short term period. Additionally, it contains flavanol, which helps increase the blood flow not only in the body but also in the brain, which also helps with cognitive function.

Different Kinds of Chocolates:

Although you can find tons of different kinds of chocolates in the market nowadays, there are only three main types of this sweet and aromatic treat.
  • Milk Chocolate - This type of chocolate is the most common in the market. It is mixed with milk or cream, sugar and contains 10% to 50% of cacao solids.
  • Dark Chocolate - This type of chocolate is hailed to be the most healthy kind. It is also mixed with milk and sugar, but the cacao solids percentage can go anywhere from 50% to 90%.
  • White Chocolate - This white-coloured type of chocolate is made from milk solids, sugar, and sometimes vanilla. Unlike the two other types, this chocolate does not contain cocoa solids but cacao butter instead.

Other Types of Chocolates:
  • Semisweet Chocolate
  • Bittersweet Chocolate
  • Unsweetened Chocolate (or Baking Chocolate)
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Sweet German Chocolate
  • Couverture Chocolate
  • Ruby Chocolate

Healthier Options:

If you are looking for chocolates with other health benefits, here are some healthier choices:

Ashwagandha-infused Chocolate - Known to reduce blood sugar levels, this powerful adaptogen can be found infused in chocolates sold in the market. Aside from chocolate's health benefits, additional advantages of having ashwagandha on it are reduction of stress, anxiety, risk of developing depression, and it is also believed to have anti-cancer properties.

CBD Oil-infused Chocolate - Becoming popular in the market, many people use CBD oil for pain, anxiety, sleep and even skin conditions. Different edibles like CBD gummies UK, CBD cookies and CBD oil infused-chocolates are considered the perfect option because you can get your CBD oil dose conveniently even when you're on the go.

Nootropic herbs-infused Chocolate - Nootropic herbs such as rosemary, lemon balm, Bacopa, Ginkgo Biloba and Gotu kola are powerful herbs that are known to boost your brain functions and cognitive health. You can find nootropic herb-infused chocolates in the market if these are the benefits that you are after while enjoying the yummy treat.

Mushroom-infused Chocolate - While there are many kinds of mushrooms in the world, many of them are used due to their health benefits. Mushrooms such as reishi and cordyceps are said to be the most potent kind of mushroom and can be beneficial to heart health and boosting energy. It also has anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties. Eating chocolates infused with these mushrooms in moderation is surely a great way to rake in these benefits.
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