What is rich, gooey, delicious, and warm and reminds you of everything happy in this world? Chocolate! It comes in various shapes, colours, clocks, chips, cakes, spreads, sauces, and even from a flowing chocolate fountain! Many of us refrain from eating chocolates because once we start with a piece, it slowly turns out to be five pieces and the next thing we know, the chocolate cheat turns out to be a chocolate binge! When mothers steer their children away from chocolate, it’s probably because children cannot sustain the chocolate binge. However, chocolate has many health benefits apart from its cavity-causing downsides.
The composition of chocolate:
- Cacao beans are fermented, dried, cleaned, and then roasted. Then the shells of these beans form cacao nibs, which are ground into a fine cocoa mass. This cocoa mass is then liquefied to produce chocolate liquor. This chocolate liquor is then processed to produce cocoa butter and cocoa mass. These products are then used in various industries to produce different types of chocolate.
- The percentage of cocoa content determines the type of chocolate. The percentage ranges from 30% (sweet dark chocolate), to 70%, 75%, and 80% (extremely dark).
- The addition of milk powder, sugar, and emulsifiers to cocoa butter produces milk chocolate.
Health benefits of chocolate:
- Chocolate is a versatile ingredient, and it can be incorporated in Indian Food, as well as other cuisines. It was grown as a valuable cash crop in Kerala in 1965, following which the sale of chocolate became popular in India.
- It keeps the heart healthy-A square or two of dark chocolate a week reduced the risk of heart attack in 31,000 women by one third, as reported by a 9-year Swedish study. It reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39%. Blood-pressure raising components of exercise in over-weight people were reduced by consuming dark chocolate, due to its healthy antioxidants.
- The flavonoids in one chocolate bar exceed those in an apple by five times. Dark chocolate is mineral rich as it contains potassium, zinc, selenium. A 100g bar consists of 67% of the RDA of iron, increasing the health benefits of chocolate.
- With the numerous other benefits, comes the ability of chocolate to aid in weight loss. Dark chocolate is a saviour when it comes to those trying to get rid of love handles, as it satiates the body before a meal and reduces the craving for salty, sweet or fatty foodstuffs. Eating a square of dark chocolate 20 mins before a meal makes you feel full, and in turn makes you eat lesser, thus keeping your weight in check.
- The flavonoids in chocolate increase nitric oxide production, which helps in dropping insulation resistance to one half in diabetic patients. It also helps in monitoring insulin sensitivity.
- Dark chocolate consists of essential flavanols, which reduce the sun damage to the skin. Research has reported that after consuming chocolate rich in flavanols for 3 months, the subjects’ skin took twice as more time to develop the reddening effect which indicates sunburn.
Thus, switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate has many health benefits.